This is not exact a secret that extreme, less accurate content finds a large audience on Facebook. In the months leading up to last year’s election, the list of most relevant pages on the site was almost always dominated by far-right figures such as Dan Bongino and Dinesh D’Souza, who are not known for trusting fact-based journalism. . An anonymous Facebook executive tell Politico said in September last year: “Right-wing populism is always more gripping.” However, new research released today appears to be the first to empirically show that the relationship between accuracy and engagement differs dramatically, depending on where the source is in line with the biased spectrum.
According to researchers from the Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University, providers of misinformation have by far the highest levels of engagement per follower compared to any other category of news sources. The researchers found that while left-wing and centrist publications get much less engagement if they publish misinformation, the relationship is quite right-wing, where news organizations that regularly publish fake material get up to 65 percent more engagement than those that do not. The study provides perhaps the most important evidence to date on what types of news and fake news perform best according to this benchmark on Facebook.
“What we find is that misinformation in particular is more compelling than non-misinformation,” said Laura Edelson, a doctoral candidate and lead researcher. ‘I think it’s something a lot of people thought would be the case, but now we can really quantify it. We can specifically identify that this is really true on the right, but not in the middle or on the left. ”
The analysis is an excerpt from an academic assignment. The team looked at 2,973 Facebook pages of US news sources analyzed by bias and accuracy by two independent organizations, NewsGuard and Media Bias / Fact Check. This enabled the team to categorize each source according to ideological positioning – far right, slightly right, center, slightly left, far left – and whether or not it was tagged for publishing fake content. Of course, these rankings are an inaccurate science, but Edelson said the two databases were generally consistent with each other and with her own samples of individual news sources.
Then Edelson and her team, using CrowdTangle, a tool owned by Facebook and analyzing activities on the platform, downloaded every public message from every Facebook and Instagram page of the news organizations for five months, between August and January . many preferences, comments or other interactions that each page has accumulated. This allowed them to rank each publication according to their involvement. Finally, they planned the point of engagement for each category of publication.
The results were striking. Far left, slightly left, and in the middle category, publications credible by NewsGuard and MBFC saw between two and five times as much engagement as publications that were not. (False news published by centrist organizations tends to be of the medical quack variety, according to the study.) In the slightly right category, accurate sources have only a slim advantage. It’s in the far right category that things get weird: sources named as wrong information providers saw 426 interactions per thousand followers in an average week, compared to only 259 for far-right sources without the wrong information. Both of these engagement numbers dwarf any other category; the next highest is ‘far left, not wrong information’, with only about 145 interactions per thousand followers per week.