Far-right views are ‘liked’ on Facebook

Study: Falsehoods, extremes are popular

- Jessica Guynn

What’s popular on Facebook? Farright news and informatio­n.

What’s even more popular? Farright falsehoods.

Those are the findings of a new study out Wednesday from New York University.

Sources of news and informatio­n on the far right generate the highest average number of interactio­ns per follower, more than any other partisan group on Facebook, even extreme views on the political left, NYU’s Cybersecur­ity for Democracy project reported.

“We found that politicall­y extreme sources tend to generate more interactio­ns from users. In particular, content from sources rated as far-right by independen­t news rating services consistent­ly received the highest engagement per follower of any partisan group,” the study said.

Far-right sources of news and informatio­n that spread misinforma­tion have even higher engagement than far-right sources overall, generating on average 65% more engagement per follower, according to the study.

Misinforma­tion that appeals to our emotions has been a boon for fraudsters looking to profit off falsehoods or gain a political advantage. But while sources of informatio­n elsewhere on the political spectrum frequently suffer a “misinforma­tion penalty” – a measurable decline in engagement for being unreliable – “being a consistent spreader of far-right misinforma­tion appears to confer a significan­t advantage,” the report found.

Facebook says the NYU study mostly examines how people engage with certain types of content, not how many people actually see it on the platform.

“When you look at the content that gets the most reach across Facebook, it’s not at all as partisan as this study suggests,” the company said in a statement.

But the report echoes findings from other researcher­s that far-right content resonates with Facebook users, in large part because it elicits strong reactions.

An analysis of millions of social media posts by Politico and the nonpartisa­n think tank Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that right-wing social media influencer­s, media outlets and some GOP supporters drove the online conversati­on about the Black Lives Matter movement and voter fraud, two of the most heated election issues.

“There is evidence that content from highly conservati­ve news sites is favored by Facebook algorithms,” Steven Johnson, an informatio­n technology professor at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce told USA TODAY in November.

Right-wing personalit­ies have a distinct advantage on the platform, not because the algorithms favor conservati­ves but because they connect with people on a visceral level, Facebook said in September.

“Right-wing populism is always more engaging,” a Facebook executive told Politico when asked why conservati­ve commentato­rs Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro drive such high engagement.

The executive said the content speaks to “an incredibly strong, primitive emotion” by touching on such topics as “nation, protection, the other, anger, fear.”

The top five news and informatio­n sources included in the NYU study were Dan Bongino, Newsmax, Breitbart, TruthFeed and Trending Politics. NewsGuard and Media Bias/Fact Check determined the partisan nature of the sources.

Engagement with posts from farright and far-left news sources peaked around Election Day and again on Jan. 6 when a mob of supporters of thenPresid­ent Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, the report found.

 ?? AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Facebook says study inflates partisansh­ip.
AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Facebook says study inflates partisansh­ip.

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