There’s been a lot of discussion over what role Facebook and its proliferation of fake news played in Donald Trump’s election victory. In the same week where “post-truth” was chosen as the word of the year, even President Barack Obama said that the rise of patently false, politically charged stories on Facebook is creating a “dust cloud of nonsense.”
It’s hard to quantify just how many Americans voted for Trump explicitly because of fake news. But as this chart from Statista shows, misinformation has some real pull. Citing the results of a Buzzfeed report earlier this week, it shows how the top 20 fake election stories actually generated more engagement than the top 20 real ones.
That the top five of those stories are pro-Trump seems telling. What’s undeniable, though, is that Facebook has power. Every major modern news outlet relies on it as a source of traffic. When you leave the door to that traffic ajar, and when you prioritise engagement above all else, you rely on users not to abuse your platform. Well, people are using that platform to share misinformation, and confirmation bias is definitely a thing.
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