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Misinformation and far-right news receive the most engagement on Facebook

This…honestly isn’t that surprising.

facebook logo with qanon supporters in background
Image: KnowTechie

For years, conservatives have complained about the poor treatment they receive from “the bias Silicon Valley technocrats.” However, according to a New York University’s Cybersecurity study, all those rants are pretty much baseless.

As it turns out, by far, the easiest way to go viral on Facebook is by posting far-right, extreme rhetoric. 

The researchers studied data coming from 2,973 news sources that had at least 100 followers on Facebook. The researchers then downloaded more than 8.6 million public posts from those sources. 

After crunching the data, the main conclusion was that far-right sources that spread lies, misinformation, and hoaxes were the ones that received the most engagement, by far. Stunningly, fake far-right news received as much as 65% more attention per follower than regular far-right news. 

On the other side of the specter, news sources labeled as “center,” “slightly left,” or “far-left” often received “misinformation penalties.” On average non-misinformation sources averaged 259 weekly interactions per 1000 followers per week, whereas far-right fake news sources received 426 interactions per 1000 followers weekly.

The researchers didn’t only point to the discrepancy they discovered, but they also pointed to two other studies that pretty much confirm their findings. The two studies that also looked into this matter were the Harvard Misinformation Review and one from the German Marshall Fund. Both studies came up with conclusions similar to theirs – deceptive content from far-right groups performs better on Facebook. Furthermore, the two studies pointed to the association between fake news and partisanship and that it is notably pronounced with conservatives.  

The researchers who conducted the study confirmed that their discoveries are limited, due to limited access to Facebook data. They feel that their study would be more complete and paint a better picture if they could see how many people saw a post, how long they spent reading that particular post, and so on.

All that can answer the core question – why is far-right content so appealing and engaging to people. The researchers also expressed the need for cross-platform research that would include content from YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter. But for the time being, they don’t have access to data from those websites.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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