‘Facebook Users Engaging With Misinformation More Than in 2016’

The study found that despite its efforts, Facebook was “uneven” in successfully addressing misinformation.

2 min read
A recent study found that misinformation continues to spread on Facebook despite the company’s significant efforts.

The engagement of Facebook users with news outlets that publish false or manipulated information has tripled since 2016, a study published on Monday, 12 October, found out.

The study by the German Marshall Fund Digital, the digital wing of the Washington, DC-based public policy think tank, talks about how misinformation continues to spread on Facebook despite the company’s efforts.

The study was conducted in partnership with the startup NewsGuard and social media analytics firm NewsWhip. NewsGuard rated different news outlets based on how they uphold the different journalistic standards. Based on the ratings, the researchers categorised the outlets as “false content producers” or “manipulators.” 

The number of articles published by "False Content Producers" increased by 102 per cent while the number of articles by "Manipulators" increased by 293 per cent, the study found.

The study found that 10 out of over 1000 thousand outlets were responsible for 62 percent of the interactions. It also found that "although the top five sites for each category are conservative-leaning, there are several left-leaning and apolitical sites within our deceptive sites."

“Disinformation is infecting our democratic discourse at rates that threaten the long-term health of our democracy. A handful of sites masquerading as news outlets are spreading even more outright false and manipulative information than in the run-up to the 2016 election,” Karen Kornbluh, director of GMF Digital, said.

Kornbluh said that users were engaged more with articles from all news outlets this year during the coronavirus pandemic. But the interaction with content from manipulators and false content producers remained high while that from legitimate sources dropped to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of 2020.

The study found that the number of interactions with manipulative outlets in the second quarter of 2020 alone was greater than the number of interactions in all of 2017.

A Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider that while the study talks about engagement with false content, it doesn’t take into account what the majority of Facebook users actually see on the site.

"Over the past four years we've built the largest fact-checking network of any platform, made investments in highlighting original, informative reporting, and changed our products to ensure fewer people see false information and are made aware of it when they do," the spokesperson told Business Insider.

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