Fake viral election news saw more engagement on Facebook than real election news in the last three months of the election, reported Buzzfeed News. When comparing the 20 top-performing fake news stories from satire or hoax sites to the 20 top-performing news stories from 19 major news sites, the fake stories outperformed the real ones in terms of Facebook shares, comments, and reactions 8,711,000 to 7,367,000.
According to data compiled by Buzzfeed News, election content from real news outlets such as The Huffington Post, NBC News, New York Times, and Washington Post was unequivocally getting more Facebook engagements than fake news sites from February to July of this year. Buzzfeed News pointed out fake news site Ending the Fed as one of the more successful sites, having four of the top 10 false election stories. Ending the Fed had the single top performing fake news story, one that claimed Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump for president.
The fake stories analyzed by Buzzfeed News also came from hyperpartisan sites that, in their words, “present themselves as publishing real news.” Buzzfeed News found one viral election story that was false that stemmed from hyperpartisan left wing site Winning Democrats. The false story, which got over 810,000 engagements, alleged Ireland was taking in anti-Trump refugees from the U.S.
“There is a long tail of stories on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesman told Buzzfeed News. “It may seem like the top stories get a lot of traction, but they represent a tiny fraction of the total.” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg similarly downplayed the popularity of false news stories in a Facebook post on Nov. 12. “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other,” Zuckerberg wrote. However, Zuckerberg did say a tool allowing fake news and hoaxes to be flagged has been created, and that further steps would be taken to crack down on fake news.