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New report: A year before 2020 elections,

Facebook's political fake news problem surges

 to over 150 million views


**Investigation finds a fake news tidal wave in 2020 could be bigger than 2016 — unless
Facebook redoubles effort to curb disinformation and implement Correct the Record
 immediately**


NEW YORK (November 6, 2019).— Political fake news in the US has already surged past 150 million views this year, according to a new investigation by the global civic movement Avaaz. The research, which analysed the top 100 (fact-checked) viral political fake news stories on Facebook in 2019, found that the number of views was enough to reach every registered voter at least once. It also shows that disinformation content has surged in the last three months, as the Presidential election heats up.

The report urges the social media platform to implement Correct the Record, a solution becoming popular amongst issue experts. The idea is that platforms would notify anyone exposed to fake news and present them with corrections verified by third-party independent fact-checkers - a modernized version of what most credible newspapers already do.

The investigation also found:

  • The number of fake news stories and estimated views against Democrats/Liberals was twice as large (62% of fake news stories, 104m views) as those against Republicans/Conservatives (29% of fake news stories, 49m views) — the remaining 9% were designed to spread pro-Republican content.

  • The number of views and interactions for the most viral fake news stories spiked rapidly in the last 3 months of the research (86 million views), coinciding with the increased pace of the US 2020 presidential race.

  • Considering the top 20 fake news over the last 3 months, the number of interactions (4.6 million) appears to be 1.5 times more than what was reported in the period 3 to 6 months before the 2016 elections (3.1 million) by the media.  

  • The number of total views on this fake news was almost 3 times the views of official Facebook GOP & Democrats pages — combined they only generated 59.7 million views in the same period.

  • This is just the tip of the threat — this investigation did not analyze other key platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram and only focused on Facebook content already fact checked by fact checkers.  

Fadi Quran, Campaign Director at Avaaz, said: “ The 2020 elections are at risk! Every American who cares about free and fair elections in 2020, including the candidates and political parties, should be sounding the alarm about Facebook’s fake news problem. This is a company that can easily reach every voter in this country, and their tools are accelerating a wave of political lies that leaves us less informed and more polarized. Our team detected that millions and millions of Americans are seeing and sharing blatantly false political information, and we’re not even into the election year yet. The most effective solution to this threat that does not undermine our free speech is to notify users when they've been targeted with viral lies and work with independent fact checkers to correct the record.” 

Some of the most viral fake news stories included

  • The false claim that Nancy Pelosi is diverting Social Security money for the impeachment inquiry (over 24 million estimated views)
  • The false claim that Trump's grandfather was a pimp and tax evader and his father a member of the KKK (over 29 million estimated views)
  • The false claim that Joe Biden had called Trump Supporters “Dregs of Society” (over 4 million estimated views)
  • The false claim that democratic representative Ilhan Oman attended an Al Qaeda training camp (over 77 thousand estimated views)

Avaaz is currently partnering with key experts and academics to test the specificities and efficacy of corrections on social media, after multiple peer reviewed studies have proven their effectiveness in reducing and even eliminating the effects of disinformation. A mock-up of how such corrections could look like on social media can be found here.

Notes to editor:

About the methodology: the research focused on collecting and analysing social media posts over a ten-month period - between January 1 and October 31, 2019 - focusing on the top 100 fake news stories - posted over 2,3 million times -  about US politics still online on Facebook. All stories had already been fact-checked and debunked by reputable US fact-checking organisations at the time of our study.
 
About Avaaz work on disinformation: this report is part of an ongoing Avaaz campaign to protect democracies from the dangers of disinformation on social media. As part of that campaign, Avaaz investigations have revealed a huge disinformation network with half a billion views ahead of European elections; prompted Facebook to take down a network reaching 1.7m people in Spain days before the election; released a report on the fake news (reaching 105m views) that fueled the Yellow Vests crisis in France; and exposed a massive disinfo network (28 pages with 12.6m interactions) during the Brazil elections. Avaaz’s call for Facebook to Correct the Record as a primary solution to disinformation has been endorsed by people like EU Security Commissioner, Julian King.
 
(1) 2018 registered voters:
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/voting-and-registration/p20-583.html
 
For more information and interviews: media@avaaz.org
To download the full report, please click here.