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Facebook Fake News Gets Better Engagement than Legitimate News, Study Says


Researchers at the New York University and France’s Universite Grenoble Alpes have found that misinformation or fake news received six times as many likes, shares, and interactions as legitimate news articles.

The study, published in The Wall Street Journal, analyzed 2,551 pages categorized by NewsGuard and Media Bias/Fact Check on where they stand on the political spectrum, as well as their predilection for sharing dubious stories.

These were then compared with interactions with notorious fonts of misinformation such as Occupy Democrats and Breitbart, as well as more staid factual publishers.

The study has analyzed data of posts from Facebook pages of more than 2,500 news publishers from August 2020 to January 2021 and saw publishers with right-wing inclinations have a much higher propensity to share misleading information than publishers in other political categories, reports The Washington Post.

“The study helps add to the growing body of evidence that, despite a variety of mitigation efforts, misinformation has found a comfortable home – and an engaged audience – on Facebook,” the report quoted Rebekah Tromble, Director of The Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University, who reviewed the study’s findings.

The researchers conducted the study as part of the 2021 Internet Measurement Conference in November. 

“This report looks mostly at how people engage with content, which should not be confused with how many people actually see it on Facebook,” said Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne.

“When you look at the content that gets the most reach across Facebook, it is not at all like what this study suggests.”

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Misinformation with sensationalized headlines has long been the cause for people to gravitate towards fake news more than legitimate news. The obvious exaggeration of facts and information feeds people’s curiosity.

Now, this behavioral study of Facebook users conducted by researchers at New York University and the Université Grenoble Alpes in France has now quantified this effect for the first time.

The researchers duly confirmed that misinformation of whatever political flavor gained a higher interest compared to the dry, factual pages that publish reports based on official data, with right-leaning sources being somewhat more prolific.

The NYU-Alpes study showed that right-wing publishers were found to post more misinformation than left-wing ones.

But both right-wing and left-wing misinformation was popular, and publishers from both sides gained a big boost in engagement from publishing it.

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