Reprinted With Permission From Media Matters.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and continuing into the transition period, President-elect Donald Trump has surrounded himself with people who have helped propagate fake news, which got more attention than real news did on Facebook toward the end of the election cycle. That list includes two of his sons, his former campaign manager, his pick for national security adviser, and the adviser’s son, who was involved in the transition until recently. The fake news stories they pushed included a piece claiming Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton paid people to protest Trump’s election and a fake claim that Clinton and her campaign were involved in a child trafficking ring.
An analysis by BuzzFeed News found that in the final months of the 2016 election, fake news stories generated more engagement on Facebook than did the top election articles from major news outlets:
In the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others, a BuzzFeed News analysis has found.
During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
This new data illustrates the power of fake election news on Facebook, and comes as the social network deals with criticism that it allowed false content to run rampant during the 2016 presidential campaign. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently it was “a pretty crazy idea” to suggest that fake news on Facebook helped sway the election. He later published a post saying, “We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here.” [BuzzFeed, 11/16/16]
Trump’s pick for national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, tweeted a link to a fake news piece alleging that emails revealed that the Clinton campaign was engaging in money laundering and sex crimes with children. As Politico noted, “no such emails have ever surfaced.” [Politico, 12/5/16, Twitter, 11/2/16]
Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a fake letter, appearing to be authored by “Hillary,” that suggested the Clinton campaign was bribing pollsters. According to PoliticusUSA, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., retweeted “a totally obvious fake Hillary Clinton email conspiracy” that “feeds his father’s unhinged narrative about rigged polls.” [PoliticusUSA, 8/30/16; Twitter, 8/30/16]
Eric Trump tweeted a link to a fake story alleging that the Clinton campaign paid protesters to disrupt a Trump rally, Adding, “Finally The Truth Comes Out.” According to CNN Money, Eric Trump tweeted a fake story that claimed then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign paid individuals to protest a Trump rally. CNN Money pointed out that the story was from “a hoax version of ABC News.” [CNN.com, 11/1/16]
Michael Flynn Jr.: “Until #Pizzagate Proven To Be False, It’ll Remain A Story.” Michael Flynn Jr., the son of Gen. Flynn and a reported member of the Trump transition team until recently, tweeted, “Until #PizzaGate is proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.” Flynn was referring to what The Washington Post described as “a false election-related conspiracy theory … claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the [Washington-based pizzeria Comet Ping Pong] backrooms.” The fake news about Comet spurred a man to bring an assault rifle to the restaurant to, as he put it, “self-investigate” the claims, the Post reported.[The Washington Post, 12/5/16, Twitter, 12/6/16; New York magazine, 12/6/16]
Corey Lewandowski tweeted a fake story alleging the Clinton campaign paid protesters to disrupt a Trump rally. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski tweeted the same fake article as Eric Trump that claimed protesters had been paid $3,500 to demonstrate at a Trump event. Lewandowski has since deleted the tweet, but PolitiFact posted it and debunked the claim, calling the story “fake news.” PolitiFact, 11/17/16]
IMAGE: 3D-printed Facebook and Twitter logos are seen in this picture illustration made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files