The bad news: 1,152 pieces of fake news were shared via Facebook, with a single user responsible for 171. On Twitter, users shared 128 pieces of fake news.
“We found that Facebook is the central conduit for the transfer of fake news,” said Hopp.
In the Facebook sample, those who had self-identified as extremely conservative accounted for more than a quarter of all fake news shared. About a third of fake news shared on Twitter was by ultra-conservatives.
Those who self-identified as extremely liberal also played a big role in the spread, accounting for 17.5% of shares on Facebook and 16.4% on Twitter.
“It’s not just Republicans or just Democrats, but rather, people who are — left or right — more ideologically extreme,” said Hopp.
Their press release goes on to claim
Previous studies have shown that Facebook users 65 and older post seven times as many articles from fake news sites as those under 29 years old, and contrary to popular belief, those who are fairly media literate also spread fake news.
But does not identify those studies are or if those findings are biased by other factors. For example, I have a number of friends who are age 65+ – and during the pandemic they appear to spend a lot of time on social media. Conversely, the younger people I know seem to be spending a lot less time on social media now.
Could that bias the sample?
Adversaries have used social media – the free printing press of the 21st century – to sow fear, hate and dysfunction:
Users flipping through their feeds that fall faced a minefield of incendiary ads, pitting Blacks against police, Southern whites against immigrants, gun owners against Obama supporters and the LGBTQ community against the conservative right — all coming from the same source thousands of miles away.
“This wasn’t necessarily about electing one candidate or another,” said Vargo. “It was essentially a make-Americans-hate-each-other campaign.”
The general goal of all media – mainstream or social – seems to be to emotionally inflame the target.