Misinformation on Facebook got six times more clicks than factual news during the 2020 election, study says

Right-leaning pages also produce more misinformation, the forthcoming study found.


A new study of user behavior on Facebook around the 2020 election is likely to bolster critics’ long-standing arguments that the company’s algorithms fuel the spread of misinformation over more trustworthy sources.

The forthcoming peer-reviewed study by researchers at New York University and the Université Grenoble Alpes in France has found that from August 2020 to January 2021, news publishers known for putting out misinformation got six times the amount of likes, shares and interactions on the platform as did trustworthy news sources, such as CNN or the World Health Organization.

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Philip S Moore

It is inevitable that more sensational stories will attract more readers. However, to dismiss those sensational stories as "misinformation" goes to the difficulty in making a judgement about truth versus fiction in reporting, or on relying on sites, such as Facebook, to police themselves. As highlighted by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Richard Kluger, in his 2016 book, "Indelible Ink: The Trials of John Peter Zenger and the Birth of America's Free Press", Zenger could easily have been accused of publishing misinformation, in that exaggeration and innuendo played a role in his reporting. So, too, could Jay M. Near, whose prosecution by the state of Minnesota and successful appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court established the press freedom we now accept as our right.

However, as Chief Justice and legendary jurist Charles Evans Hughes wrote in his decision overturning the Minnesota "public nuisance" gag law, "...the fact that liberty of press may be abused does not make any less necessary the immunity of the press from prior restraint ... a more serious evil would result if officials could determine which stories can be published ..." The same could be said for any of today's purveyors of "misinformation". The last person to determine the truth of an accusation is the person with a vested interest in declaring its falsity.

Tuesday, September 7