Far-right news and misinformation received the most engagement on Facebook during 2020 US election

In the weeks earlier than and after the 2020 US election, Facebook content material from far-right sources of news and misinformation received extra engagement than different sources elsewhere on the political spectrum, a new study from New York University has revealed.

The findings counsel that far-right pages have a bonus energizing followers on the world’s greatest social community. “My takeaway is that, a method or one other, far-right misinformation sources are capable of have interaction on Facebook with their audiences a lot, far more than another class,” Laura Edelson, a researcher at NYU’s Cybersecurity for Democracy initiative who helped compile the report, told CNN. “That’s most likely fairly harmful on a system that makes use of engagement to find out what content material to advertise.”

Researchers checked out some 8.6 million public posts shared by 2,973 “news and info sources” from August tenth, 2020 to January eleventh, 2021, categorizing the political slant and verisimilitude of their output primarily based on evaluations by unbiased retailers like NewsGuard and Media Bias/Fact Check. The examine measured how usually Facebook customers engaged with this content material — sharing, commenting, or responding with reactions.


Knowledge from NYU’s examine reveals far-right sources of news and misinformation outperforming different elements of the political spectrum. Picture: NYU Cybersecurity for Democracy

Their findings confirmed that far-right sources generated the highest common variety of interactions per put up, adopted by far-left sources, then extra centrist pages. Trying particularly at far-right sources, they discovered that pages spreading misinformation carried out finest. “Far-right sources designated as spreaders of misinformation had a median of 426 interactions per thousand followers per week, whereas non-misinformation sources had a median of 259 weekly interactions per thousand followers,” write the researchers.

“Being a constant spreader of far-right misinformation seems to confer a major benefit”

Notably, the examine confirmed that whereas spreading misinformation meant much less engagement for sources on the far-left, left, middle, and proper wing of the political spectrum, it really gave the impression to be a bonus for sources on the far-right. “Being a constant spreader of far-right misinformation seems to confer a major benefit,” mentioned the authors.

The examine is but extra proof towards the declare made by conservative politicians that Facebook is biased towards right-wing sources. It additionally casts doubts on the efficacy of Facebook’s efforts to restrict the unfold of misinformation in the run-up to the US 2020 election.

The researchers behind the examine word that their findings are restricted, too. Though they have been capable of measure and evaluate engagement from totally different sources on Facebook, they couldn’t examine how many individuals really noticed a bit of content material or how lengthy they spent studying it. Facebook merely doesn’t present this information, leaving an incomplete image.

“Such info would assist researchers higher analyze why far-right content material is extra partaking,” write the researchers. “Additional analysis is required to find out to what extent Facebook algorithms feed into this pattern, for instance, and to conduct evaluation throughout different fashionable platforms, resembling YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok. With out better transparency and entry to information, such analysis questions are out of attain.”

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