December 5, 2020

The scope of fake news on Facebook grows one year after the elections in the US

The reach of false news spread through the social network Facebook continues to grow and, so far this year, misinformation has already reached more people than in the 2016 campaign, according to a report published on Wednesday.

Between January and October, the 100 demonstrably false publications (as determined by independent verifiers) most popular circulating on Facebook were seen 159 million times in total, said the Avaaz NGO study.

In turn, these 100 stories were published on 2.3 million occasions and achieved 8.9 million interactions, that is, "likes", comments or "sharing" by Internet users.

According to Avaaz, when there is still a year left for the US presidential elections, this false information – mostly political and with protagonists directly or indirectly linked to the elections – have already achieved greater scope than the most viral published four, five and six months before the 2016 election.

On that occasion, the misinformation through the internet became a central role in the public debate, knowing that Russian hackers had carried out campaigns to promote false news to influence the electoral outcome.

"If actions are not taken immediately, we anticipate that the 2020 elections in the US will again be strongly impacted by misinformation," said Avaaz.

To put into context the 159 million views that these false publications received, it should be noted that in the US there are around 153 million registered voters and that, for example, the official pages of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party "were only" 59 millions of times in that same period.

The false news that has achieved greater reach through Facebook during the last months in the US and that was seen 29 million times was one that assured that the grandfather of the president of the country, Donald Trump, was a pimp and tax evader, and that his father belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.

The second and third most widespread false news corresponded to politicians of the Democratic Party, assuring the first of them that the spokeswoman for the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, was diverting social security funds to pay the political trial against Trump.

The third, meanwhile, said that the media representative from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had proposed banning motorcycles.

Although the misinformation that has circulated on Facebook in the past ten months in the US was directed both against the Democrats and the Republicans (within these, especially against Trump), the progressives received, as a whole, more attacks than the conservatives.

"Facebook needs to change the course of the misinformation, not only reorganize the garden chairs: it must correct the news record," Avaaz spokesman Óscar Soria told Efe.

"We know that they can do it, because they already do it with the false news about themselves. Every respectable means of communication does this, it is an old journalistic principle that technology experts tell us that it is totally possible for it to be implemented by technology giants." riveted

After the experience of 2016 – and others that followed in other countries -, the CEO and co-founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, assured the US Congress that his company was in "war" against false news and that it was going to take measurements.

One of the most popular was the creation of a "war room" or "war room" at its headquarters in Menlo Park (California, USA), a small room from which employees of the company are coordinated throughout the world and decide in real time some of the most relevant cases of alleged misinformation that are occurring in the social network.

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