Have you ever noticed that false rumors seem to spread way more quickly than true ones?
Three scholars from MIT did, and they conducted a study that proves it.
After looking at a massive amount of data amassed from Twitter from 2006 to 2017, the researchers found that falsehoods reached 1,500 people six times more rapidly than the truth. As for why this happens, they concluded that because false news is more novel, people are more likely to share it with others.
Chances are good you have also heard at least a few crazy rumors over the years, either on a social media site or maybe when out for coffee with a good friend.
One of the major problems with the proliferation of these false rumors is that they can have a serious impact on innocent people and companies that have done nothing wrong. For example, the following businesses have had to deal with untrue myths that ultimately could have been their downfall:
Pop Rocks Plus Soda Equals BOOM
Pop Rocks candy really took off in popularity in the late 1970s. If you were a fan of the fizzy candy back then, you probably remember hearing the rumor that Mikey, the little boy in the Pop Rocks ad, had his stomach explode when he ate the candy while drinking a soda. As the Pop Rocks website notes, the rumors became so bad that the FDA set up a hot line in Seattle for people to call with their concerns and to reassure parents that the candy was safe for their kids to eat, and that soda mixed with Pop Rocks would not cause anyone’s stomach to explode.
Amway is a Pyramid Scheme
Since the company first opened in 1959, Amway has provided hard-working people with the opportunity to open their own home-based business and sell Amway’s products directly to others. Even though the company is completely legit, it has had to defend itself against the persistent myth that it is a pyramid scheme. The company responded by posting in-depth articles on its website refuting these rumors and also created YouTube videos that explain what Amway is all about, and how it is not a scam or pyramid scheme.
Corona Beer is Number One…Literally
If you have ever heard Corona beer referred to as “piss,” you might have naturally assumed it is a bad joke aimed at its light yellow color and somewhat unusual aroma. But in the 1980s there was an actual rumor that Corona contained real human urine, according to the Washington Post. As it turns out, rival beer brand Heineken was to blame for this crazy story; Corona’s sales were skyrocketing, and so distributors from the other company began whispering that Mexican workers used beer containers that were coming to the United States as urinals. Unfortunately, this lie was believed by beer drinkers; sales of Corona dropped by almost 80 percent in some parts of the country and stores returned shipments.
Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear
Clearly, false rumors can have a very real impact on major companies. If you hear or read something negative about a business or person on social media, please keep the MIT study in mind and do your own research to verify if what you read is true—if it’s a crazy sounding rumor, chances are good it is not legit.