Probe reveals stunning stats about fake election headlines on Facebook

Man sitting at computer; Office work

CBS NEWS — People who got their election news on Facebook might have been looking at more fake stories than real ones.

BuzzFeed News concluded that the fake clickbait headlines hooked users more often than real headlines, after analyzing the last three months of campaign coverage. The report compared fake news from hoax sites and hyper-partisan blogs to legitimate new articles from 19 major news outlets, including the New York Times, Fox News and even CBS News, reports CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan.

You might have seen an article with the headline blaring “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President” on your Facebook feed in September.ctm-clean-7am-cr470c-20161117-frame-79651.jpg

You might have even shared the article or just clicked “like” or “wow” or made a comment. The problem is the story was false, joining the ranks of other fake, highly shared or liked articles, with headlines like “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS,” or “Hillary is Disqualified from Holding Any Federal Office.”

BuzzFeed News said during the last three months of the presidential campaign, of the top 20 fake election-related articles on Facebook, all but three were all anti-Clinton or pro-Trump. And Facebook users engaged with them using a share, a like or a comment more than 8.7 million times.


While campaigning for Hillary Clinton the day before the election, President Obama criticized how false information can spread on the social network.

“As long as it’s on Facebook and people can see it, as long as it’s on social media, people start believing it. And it creates this dust cloud of nonsense,” the president said.

According to Pew Research, 66 percent of Facebook users said they get news from the site. But at a tech conference last Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the issue.

“I think the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea,” Zuckerberg said.

But in a post a few days later, he acknowledged Facebook has begun to look into ways for the online community to flag hoaxes and fake news.

Still, platforms like Facebook and Google could face legal hurdles in addressing the problem.

“There’s legislation in this country that says if you are a platform, you are not liable for what people publish on you,” said Nick Thompson, editor of NewYorker.com. “However, if you start to edit what people publish on your platform, then your legal obligations increase.”

According to experts, it’s difficult to filter out fake news in real time. But Facebook and Google have each announced new plans to prevent fake stories from spreading by restricting advertising with websites that spread fake content.

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