In a study released on January 18, titled “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election,” NYU economics professor Hunt Allcott and Stanford economics professor Matthew Gentzkow conducted a series of tests to determine which fake news articles were being circulated, how much they were shared and viewed, and what impact they had on voters.
Allcott and Gentzkow conducted a 1,200-person post-election online survey and used previous studies and web browser data to conclude that social media was an important source of information, but it was not a dominant source of information.
Their survey found only 14 percent of Americans viewed social media as their “most important” source of election news
“Our data suggest that social media were not the most important source of election news and even the most widely circulated news stories were seen by only a small fraction of Americans,” lead researchers Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow wrote.
In order for fake news to have a real effect on the election, it would have had to have been as persuasive as 36 television ads, the study concludes.
Fake news became so prominent in 2016, Politifact named it “the lie of the year,” a dubious award usually reserved for humans.
Allcott and Gentzkow also tracked stories that were categorized as fake news by fact-checkers, and found that pro-Trump stories were shared over three times more than pro-Clinton articles. Pro-Trump stories were shared a total of 30 million times, compared to pro-Clinton articles, which were only shared a total of 7.6 million times.
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