By now, we’re all familiar with the idea that social media can – and has – been used to spread untruths. But why does this work? Soroush Vosoughi from MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center talks with us in episode 20 about his research into how false news disseminates differently than true news on Twitter. His open-access article “The spread of true and false news online“, co-authored with Deb Roy and Sinan Aral, was published in the journal Science on March 9, 2018.



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How to Cite

Leigh, D., Watkins, R., & Vosoughi, S..(2018, April 2). Parsing Science – How Misinformation Spreads Online. figshare.

Hosts / Producers

Doug Leigh & Ryan Watkins


What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers


Soroush Vosoughi: This disgust might be one reason – or this negative feelings people have towards false stories – might be one reason why they’re more likely sharing.

Doug Leigh: This is Parsing Science. The unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science as told by the researchers themselves. I’m Doug Leigh.

Ryan Watkins: and I’m Ryan Watkins. Speaking of a quickly-debunked Wikileaks hoax in 2012, the investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote “It is true that the Internet can be used to disseminate falsehoods quickly, but it just as quickly roots them out and exposes them.” So is Greenwald’s stance true today as well? Today we’re joined by Soroush Vosoughi from MIT’s Media Lab, who spoke with us about his research into how true and false news spread online.

ad: WeShareScience

Hi, I’m Soroush Vosoughi. I’m a postdoc at the MIT Media Lab; also a fellow at Harvard Beckman Client Center. I’m a MIT lifer; I’ve been at MIT for many, many years. I came to Boston to study at MIT in 2004 as an undergrad, and I ended up getting my bachelor’s there and then my masters and then my PhD, and then I decided to stay a couple years for postdoc. And now actually I’m on the job market this year, so I’m going around giving job talks; hopefully finding a position for next fall.

Leigh: Ryan and I began our conversation with Soroush by asking what led to his interest in researching the spread of false news and rumors online.

Vosoughi: I was a second year PhD student in 2013 when the Boston Marathon bombings happened. At that point I was still exploring research ideas for my PhD thesis, but one kind of area that I was getting closer to making my PhD topic was on creating computational models of language learning. I’ve always been interested in linguistics and natural language processing from a computational point of view, so I’ve been interested in, for example, coming up the computational models of how children learn language.

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