Diffusing Misinformation on Social Media

Trends in the Diffusion of Misinformation on Social Media

Three researchers, Allcott, Hunt & Gentzkow, Matthew & Yu, Chuan just published this article. The authors took a look at 569 sites previously identified as sources of fake news from January 2015 to July 2018.  They measured the volume of Facebook engagements and Twitter shares for all stories in the sites, per month.  They compared the same outcomes for stories from major news sites, small non-misinformation sites, and sites that focused on business or culture (these were their control).

Their research demonstrated how data on social media usage can be used to understand questions in political science around media exposure and social media platforms’ content moderation practices. 

While their evidence is far from definitive, the authors see it as consistent with the view that the overall magnitude of the misinformation problem may have declined possibly due to changes to the Facebook platform following the 2016 election.

Interactions on fake news sites rose steadily on Facebook and Twitter in early 2015 until just after the 2016 election.

Interactions then declined by more than half on Facebook but continued to rise on Twitter.

The ratio of Facebook engagements to Twitter shares was around 45:1 during the election but then declined sharply to 15:1, two years later.

With the news sites, the small sites and the business and culture sites, the ratio remained steady over time.

Suggests that the circulation of misinformation on Facebook has declined – but it’s important to recognize the absolute quantity of interactions with misinformation (160 million per month down to 60 million per month).

The absolute level of interaction with misinformation remains high.

This research is published through the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to conducting economic research and to disseminating research findings among academics, public policy makers and business professionals.

IPA Permalink:  https://information-professionals.org/diffusing-misinformation-on-social-media/