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This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook
Posted on Nov. 16, 2016, at 4:15 p.m., by
https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman?language=enCraig Silverman (BuzzFeed Founding Editor, Canada)
A BuzzFeed News analysis found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.
In the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others, a BuzzFeed News analysis has found.
During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (This analysis focused on the top performing link posts for both groups of publishers, and not on total site engagement on Facebook. For details on how we identified and analyzed the content, see the bottom of this post.)
Up until those last three months of the campaign, the top election content from major outlets had easily outpaced that of fake election news on Facebook. Then, as the election drew closer, engagement for fake content on Facebook skyrocketed and surpassed that of the content from major news outlets.
“I’m troubled that Facebook is doing so little to combat fake news,” said
https://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College who researches political misinformation and fact-checking. “Even if they did not swing the election, the evidence is clear that bogus stories have incredible reach on the network. Facebook should be fighting misinformation, not amplifying it.”
A Facebook spokesman told BuzzFeed News that the top stories don’t reflect overall engagement on the platform. “There is a long tail of stories on Facebook,” the spokesman said. “It may seem like the top stories get a lot of traction, but they represent a tiny fraction of the total.” He also said that
https://www.facebook.com/theguardian/videos/1507085585985170/native video, live content, and
https://www.facebook.com/FoxNews/photos/a.184044921335.134777.15704546335/10154682147166336/?type=3&theaterimage posts from major news outlets saw significant engagement on Facebook.
Of the 20 top-performing false election stories identified in the analysis, all but three were overtly [controversial].
This new data illustrates the power of fake election news on Facebook, and comes as the social network deals with criticism that it allowed false content to run rampant during the 2016 presidential campaign. CEO Mark Zuckerberg
https://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/zuckerberg-techonomy-fake-news-election?utm_term=.og2A3vdjlsaid recently it was “a pretty crazy idea” to suggest that fake news on Facebook helped sway the election. He later published a
https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10103253901916271post saying, “We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here.” This week
https://www.buzzfeed.com/sheerafrenkel/renegade-facebook-employees-form-task-force-to-battle-fake-n?utm_term=.rbn0JWER5BuzzFeed News reported that a group of Facebook employees have formed a task force to tackle the issue, with one saying that “fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season.” The Wall Street Journal also
http://www.wsj.com/articles/google-to-bar-fake-news-websites-from-using-its-ad-selling-software-1479164646reported that Google would begin barring fake news websites from its AdSense advertising program. Facebook
http://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-bans-fake-news-sites-from-using-its-advertising-network-1479175778soon followed suit.
These developments follow
https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/partisan-fb-pages-analysisa study by BuzzFeed News that revealed hyperpartisan Facebook pages and their websites were publishing false or misleading content at an alarming rate — and generating significant Facebook engagement in the process. The same was true for the
https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/how-macedonia-became-a-global-hub-for-pro-trump-misinfomore than 100 US politics websites BuzzFeed News found being run out of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This new analysis of election content found two false election stories from a Macedonian sites that made the top-10 list in terms of Facebook engagement in the final three months. Conservative State published
http://conservativestate.com/hillary-clinton-2013-like-see-people-like-donald-trump-run-office-theyre-honest-cant-bought/a story that falsely quoted Hillary Clinton as saying, “I would like to see people like Donald Trump run for office; they’re honest and can’t be bought.” The story generated over 481,000 engagements on Facebook. A second false
http://worldpoliticus.com/2016/11/01/breaking-hillary-clinton-indicted-prayers-answered/story from a Macedonia site falsely claimed that Clinton was about to be indicted. It received 149,000 engagements on Facebook.
All the false news stories identified in BuzzFeed News’ analysis came from either fake news websites that only publish hoaxes or from hyperpartisan websites that present themselves as publishing real news. The research turned up a viral false election story from a hyperpartisan left-wing site. The
http://winningdemocrats.com/ireland-is-now-officially-accepting-trump-refugees-from-america/story from Winning Democrats claimed Ireland was accepting anti-Trump “refugees” from the US. It received over 810,000 Facebook engagements, and was
http://www.thejournal.ie/ireland-officially-accepting-trump-refugees-inishturk-facts-3074777-Nov2016/debunked by an Irish publication. (There was also one
http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2016/02/donald-trump-ill-overturn-the-shocking-gay-marriage-decision-trust-me/post from an LGBTQ site that used a false quote from Trump in its headline.)
Some false viral election stories from hyperpartisan sites came from right-wing publishers, according to the analysis.
One example is the remarkably successful, utterly untrustworthy site
http://www.endingthefed.com/Ending the Fed. It was responsible for four of the top 10 false election stories identified in the analysis [ …] These four stories racked up a total of roughly 2,953,000 Facebook engagements in the three months leading up to Election Day. Ending the Fed gained notoriety in August
https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/a-site-that-facebook-made-a-top-trending-topic-is-a-sketchywhen Facebook promoted its story about Megyn Kelly being fired by Fox News as a top trending item. The strong engagement the site has seen on Facebook may help explain how one of its stories was featured in the Trending box. The site, which does not publicly list an owner or editor, did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Like several other hyperpartisan right-wing sites that scored big Facebook hits this election season, Ending the Fed is a relatively new website. The domain endingthefed.com was only
http://whois.domaintools.com/endingthefed.comregistered in in March. Yet according to BuzzFeed News’ analysis, its top election content received more Facebook engagement than stories from the Washington Post and New York Times. For example, the top four election stories from the Post generated roughly 2,774,000 Facebook engagements — nearly 180,000 fewer than Ending the Fed’s top four false posts. […]
[Another] site was only
https://whois.domaintools.com/burrardstreetjournal.comregistered in April of this year. Its publisher disputes the idea that its content is aimed at misleading readers. “The BS Journal is a satire news publication and makes absolutely no secret of that or any attempt to purposely mislead our readers,” he told BuzzFeed News. Large news sites also generated strong Facebook engagement for links to their election stories. […] Overall, a significant number of the top-performing posts on Facebook from major outlets were opinion pieces, rather than news stories.rate — and generating significant Facebook engagement in the process. The same was true for the
https://whois.domaintools.com/burrardstreetjournal.comregistered in April of this year. Its publisher disputes the idea that its content is aimed at misleading readers. “The BS Journal is a satire news publication and makes absolutely no secret of that or any attempt to purposely mislead our readers,” he told BuzzFeed News. Large news