Which Fake News Stories Went Viral in 2016? BuzzFeed Analyzes

Craig Silverman continues his excellent work, writing on BuzzFeed, showing us which stories went viral in 2016, and why.

Conservatives Start Calling Regular News “Fake News”

Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times reports that conservatives have begun calling all mainstream news fake news.

“Until now, that term had been widely understood to refer to fabricated news accounts that are meant to spread virally online. But conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda.”

“In defining “fake news” so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country’s increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.”

This is a must read article.

It is also one more example of how simple fixes are not going to fix the dishonesty problem we’re facing in America.

Fact Checkers — Do They Have a Political Bias?

Nice article in Vox about how fact-checkers are perceived from both sides of the political aisle.

A Long and Brutal History of Fake News

Jacob Soll, writing on Politico, writes a spellbinding history of fake news. Worth the read. Fake news ain’t new!

Here’s some of what he wrote (this is the good news):

One silver lining in this long and alarming history of fake news is yellow journalism and its results—from civil violence to war—caused a backlash, and sent the public in search of more objective news. It was this flourishing market that sparked the rise of relatively objective journalism as an industry in turn-of-the century America. For the first time, American papers hired reporters to cover local beats and statehouses, building a chain of trust between local, state and national reporters and the public.

While partisan reporting and sensationalism never went away (just check out supermarket newsstands), objective journalism did become a successful business model—and also, until recently, the dominant one.

Let us hope that we experience such a backlash today.

The Conjunction Fallacy Explains Why People Believe Fake News

John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics, writing on Slate, says that confirmation bias isn’t the only reason we believe fake news. Also, the conjunction fallacy, which he describes as making us believe things that have lots of details. As he writes:

The conjunction fallacy posits that we are more susceptible to believing untrue stories if they are more elaborate and specific. The more details there are in a news story… the more plausible and engaging the account might become, albeit less probable.

The Many Ways People are Fighting Back Against Fake News

USA Today article that talks about the many ways people are fighting back against fake news.

How Liberals Responded to News that Facebook Will Attack Fake News

Yesterday, we took a snapshot of how conservatives viewed the news that Facebook would try to squelch fake news. Today, we look at what liberals have to say.

The statements below were taken from a New York Times story on Facebook’s new effort. The New York Times is widely seen as a liberal news source.

What the Gap in Perceptions — Between Conservatives and Liberals — Means for the Future of Fake News and Public Dialogue

The differences between the conservative responses and the liberal responses are quite substantial. Conservatives don’t trust that Facebook or the mainstream media (MSM) will be fair. Liberals don’t trust Fox, other conservative news sources, or Trump. Many liberals don’t even seem to trust the New York Times, the paper they are reading as they write a response.

The high level of distrust is going to make the fake news problem very difficult to solve. Having users (of Facebook, etc.) label news as fake is NOT GOING TO WORK! It can’t work when we as a citizenry have different knowledge bases from which to judge the news. It’s easy to believe that objective facts should win out — I personally want them to win out — but in our post-truth world one person’s facts are another person’s lies. Facebook’s effort at having it’s membership police itself, while perhaps praiseworthy, has got to be one of the stupidest ideas broached in this debate. Liberals will be marking one set of news fake. Conservatives will be marking another set of news fake. Those who are more in the middle will be very less vigorous in labeling news as fake. The upshot of this is that Facebook’s extreme fake-news labelers will create a mutually-assured-destruction nuclear-war-type scenario scorching the social-media earth into rubble, dust, and an even larger fog of dishonesty.

Words from the Liberal Audience

Note: these were grabbed in one big cut-and-paste from the Readers’ Picks section of the comments section (because the most highly selected comments were most likely to have a liberal perspective), scrubbed of identifying information, and a few statements were removed because they were not relevant to the fake news issue or just didn’t make sense. The page these were taken from is: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/15/technology/facebook-fake-news.html

This is the same as nothing. 24 hours after it is implemented, Russian paid trolls will be clicking the “Fake News” and “This doesn’t belong on Facebook” buttons on any legitimate source.

Easy Fix: If information is listed as “NEWS FEED,” then the underlying assumption is that it is news. Real News. News that meets with professional standards of JOURNALISM. Facebook could very easily make a determination based on source. If it wasn’t posted by a particular feeder member, it isn’t news.

Identify 50 (or 100 or 150) news sources across the world, all who meet the Society for Professional Journalist Code of Ethics. Whoever they are, (hopefully Washington Post, NY Times, UK Guardian, and other reputable sources), they are the only ones whose posts can be listed in the NEWS FEED.

This isn’t censorship, it is professional responsibility. It won’t be in the NEWS FEED if it isn’t news. Further, this restriction would significantly reduce Facebook’s responsibility for oversight, because the journalists will continue to meet their professional standards, and the rest of the pig poo won’t be called NEWS and end up being portrayed as such by Facebook.
The focus on Facebook and fake news is partially a distraction from a bigger issue: mainstream, traditional news sources–including the Times–missed the mark on holding Trump accountable and being fair in their reporting over the last 18 months. They didn’t take him seriously and spent over a year harping on Hillary’s emails…and look where we are now. The Times is now finally taking this seriously and has done excellent reporting since the election, along with WaPo, but many other publications and almost all of the cable news networks are failing their duty as journalists out of fear of an autocratic fascist. Nothing Facebook does to squash fake news will be enough to make up for the shoddy reporting Americans now receive from the majority of the reporters and anchors in this country.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry that so many people get their “news” from Facebook.
It wasn’t Facebook that featured for six months a thermometer showing Clinton’s 88% chance of winning the presidency.
As long as there are operatives trying to influence elections, particularly hostile foreign powers and armies of trolls paid to spam comments sections with fake news or to rig polls, the up-vote/down-vote method of detecting a story’s legitimacy is useless. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg flounders with anodyne “experiments” geared at keeping his aggregate moneymaker afloat and deflecting attention from its most obvious flaw, the lack of bonafides and proof. If the social network is going to expand beyond the role of Malicious Village Gossip, it will need to vet its sources, fact-check assertions and verify evidence. Otherwise, it’s just another trashcan for uninformed opinions.
Fox News has been promoting “fake news” for years — from saying Michelle Obama gave her husband a “terrorist fist-jab” when she fist-bumped the president, to promoting everything that came out of Sarah Palin’s mouth (remember “palling around with terrorists” about Obama? — seems quaint after the most recent election) Fox has been writing it’s own version of reality since it’s inception. What happened this election cycle was just the next stage in a war against facts that Fox and the Republican leadership started.
DJT: “Yes, Jim…enough Fake FBI News to dupe the masses.”

Comey: “Excellent, sir…….excellent !”

GOP 2016
A little late, isn’t it? We now have a praise-addicted con man, leading by lynch-mob language, and his multi-millionaire friends turning the White house into a fraternity house. His supporters are going to be so ripped off, and the fundamental decency of our nation will be savaged in the next four (eight?) years. Worse, they may be so immersed in an ocean of slander and conspiracy lies that they won’t even figure it out. Thanks, Facebook. Maybe you can reverse the election results you aided and abetted….
Lies and Propaganda are not “News” content… Do you also believe Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are real journalists?
We are getting fake news everyday from Trump. The Chinese invented global warming? He believes it so it’s true.
If it is news it is not fake. If it is fake it is not news. Stop the Orwellian doublespeak
Will NYT articles be subjected to the journalistic standards, as well? Will users be able to highlight weasel words and evidentiary surrogates in articles, to correctly label them as exploratory / conclusion-based editorial / fiction rather than news?

As a reader, I look forward to a return to who/what/when/where confirmed factual stories. I can find conspiracy theories and alien stories elsewhere.
Ask any major FB advertiser, FB has the technology and the power to tightly control #fakenews. The proliferation, especially on their site, means that Zuckerberg and Mosseri choose to encourage it instead.
Here’s the ugly Faustian truth: #fakenews probably drives FB engagement and user growth, albeit among an older, more reactionary, presumably whiter user group.
C’mon. Be better humans, Facebook titans.
“But the fake cat is already out of the imaginary bag,” Ms. Bell added. “If they didn’t try and do something about it, next time around it could have far worse consequences.”

Far worse consequences than Trump getting elected this time around? Really? I think the fake horse has already left the imaginary barn.
Just when Flynn’s son – et.al. – found something fun to do.
Oh, those tech guys.
Not long before the election, the content of my Facebook feed changed. I had already isolated myself from most fake news postings, but they kept coming. FB turned from people sharing personal items, and those of their friends, to political postings. Zuckerberg should be ashamed for his disbelief, as well as his staff, who should have been out far in advance of this trend. As far as Twitter, there should be an electronic shock to those who attempt to post falsehoods. Maybe that might make our president-elect to think twice.
A few weeks ago, 4 computer programmer undergraduate students wrote a program in 36 hours (for a hack-a-thon) that checks the web for references to a given story and labels it as likely verified, or likely questionable.

If 4 kids could do that in a weekend, what is so hard for facebook and the other multimillion dollar companies?
I can’t believe the absurdity of this issue and the emphasis on the wrong aspect of it in general. The issue is NOT that there is fake news on facebook. Of course, it is fake. This is a juvenile entertainment site for grandmas and children to talk to each other and nothing more. If you are foolish enough to believe that there is ‘real’ news on the internet cesspool then you are the problem and you have no moral recourse to claim that you didn’t know what you were reading was no authentic. No one who reads these ridiculous stories is in the slightest bit interested in news- they are seeking a brain rush of entertainment-java-juice and nothing more. From the youth today who believe that the “Daily Show” presents real news to those who read these internet diversionary sites. grow up. If you want news read a newspaper- this one has it’s own biases, yes, but it is essentially real news. Do you want more? Read the wall street journal, the independent, the guardian, El Pais, El Informedor, Miamai Herald, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post. There, that was easy, wasn’t it? But will this change anything? Of course not.
So when, for example, I see an article reporting that the DNC didn’t rig the primaries in favor of HRC, I can report that as “fake” news and Facebook will take it down?
Facebook Mounts Effort to Limit Tide of Fake News

So no more Facebook links to New York Times articles?
About time!
It’s worth noting that, for the overwhelming majority of persons with accounts, using Facebook is purely a choice. Everyone talks about finding a solution to this fake news problem, but no one ever floats the option of just quitting the data-mining operation that is Facebook altogether. It is perfectly reasonable to stop supporting a caustic business model. You won’t miss it.
The skeptics are right: it really isn’t the responsibility of Facebook to vet the news they distribute. But it may be Facebook’s responsibility to stop distributing news altogether. If “fake news” is really a national issue, then the culture of confirmation and heedless credulity that is an inevitable product of elective social networks must then be a national crisis.

But it would be even better if social media users got wise to the fact that their favorite Web platforms are not democratic institutions or public services. They should be aware that if they don’t pay for a service, the provider owes them absolutely nothing, and certainly not the brainwork of developing an accurate worldview for them.
Too little, too late.


Pew Research Center Asks Americans How They Feel about Fake News

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to keeping the American public informed, has released a study of American’s views on fake news.

This is must reading for anyone interested in the fake news problem! Here are some tidbits:

About two-in-three U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events. This sense is shared widely across incomes, education levels, partisan affiliations and most other demographic characteristics. These results come from a survey of 1,002 U.S. adults conducted from Dec. 1 to 4, 2016.

Though they sense these stories are spreading confusion, Americans express a fair amount of confidence in their own ability to detect fake news, with about four-in-ten (39%) feeling very confident that they can recognize news that is fabricated and another 45% feeling somewhat confident.
Will’s Note: According to Research by Buzzfeed, most of us cannot readily distinguish fake news from real news.

And some Americans say they themselves have shared fake news. Overall, 23% say they have ever shared a made-up news story, with 14% saying they shared a story they knew was fake at the time and 16% having shared a story they later realized was fake.

When it comes to how to prevent the spread of fake news, many Americans expect social networking sites, politicians and the public itself to do their share. Fully 45% of U.S. adults say government, politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention, on par with the 43% that say this of the public and the 42% who say this of social networking sites and search engines.

You really ought to read the article, which has much more detail.
Here is what the Pew Research Center says about itself:

Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. We do not take policy positions.

Four Tricky Ways that Fake News Can Fool You

The Ted Talk people have an article by Daniel Levitin, author of, A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age, that talks about the ways that fake news can fool us.

Conservative Reaction to Facebook’s Announcement Against Fake News

Facebook today came out with a plan to limit the negative repercussions of fake news.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, puts out news via the brand, The Daily Signal, which has a Facebook page.

When they asked their readers/viewers today what they thought of Facebook’s announcement, the responses were enlightening. Basically, their audience thought it was going to lead to more fake news coming from liberal sources. Note that these readers/viewers probably watched a video with a conservative slant about the fake news issue.

This overwhelming outcry against fact-checking should make us question the power of fact-checking to really improve the underlying beliefs that we Americans hold.

Words from the Conservative Audience

Note: these were grabbed randomly in one big cut-and-paste, scrubbed of identifying information, and a few statements were removed because they were not relevant to the fake news issue. The page these were taken from is: https://www.facebook.com/TheDailySignalNews/videos/759175667581721/

Censorship by all other names. Mass manipulation the likes of Hitler and Stalin. Let the people decide for themselves. Lest you consider us sheep?

Florida here, this is all well and good but the mainstreat media is one of the worst to be putting out fake news or not telling the publice what is really true.

The problem is who gets to decide what’s Fake and what isn’t, Snopes? They are very slanted when it comes to politics as they always lean left in their rulings…


Facebook took off DML Dennis Michael Lynch ( a conservative opinion), but allows nasty ladies on the View to spread nonsense and bias hatred !

Of course Facebook is only using liberal fact checkers. The real purpose of this is censorship for the left against the right. Only the left’s fake news will be allowed.

Snopes? They’ve been outed as illegitimate and completely biased

The fake news items on Facebook are nothing but digesting theses people that do that should be fined heavenly and spend some time in jail

People need to figure it out themselves! Who cares about bias. Watch, listen, and read both sides and make your own conclusions

So FaceBook will end their practice of censoring conservative posts by users ?

They slready censor, thid just seems lik a fals appearance. Does thi mean conservative an christian ited will b bigget targetd?

Start with all the news agency’s that put out the bogus poll data that caused Clinton to think she had the election in the bag. There’s your Russian connection!

Also, I get very upset about articles coming across as breaking news on newsfeed and then you see it is an article from months ago or even years ago!

Why don’t some groups get together and start our own page? The last people I would trust to be arbiters of the truth are the ones mentioned. Guess I’ll be getting more done when I drop out.

Facebook is not a news site so why worry about it? If you believe facebook is actually reporting real news the jokes on you.

Never have trusted anything important on facebook. I will never trust facebook in the future. People don’t always tell the truth.

People need to be able to look into things for themselves and not just depend on opinions of others. All this leads to censorship and more propaganda from established news sources.

Facebook should mind its own business……I will close my acct. if it starts to tell me what I can see.

Wrong…no more free speech…thinking about deleting my acct because of this…bet if we all did this they would change their tune

Without “fake news,” the Democrats would never be in the news

Censorship. Who is going to decide what’s fake? The people who brought us obama AND hillary?

So Obama and Josh earnest are no longer going to be able to speak ?

what will happen to those that report Fake News knowing that their fake report is not real..ergo
“fake newsing” real news..Censorship…all sites Conservative will be reported as fake news..Censorship …you know..like “Snopes”

Whatever the left leaning FB does not like will now be considered fake news.. We will rebrand it as Pravda.

Journalistic integrity does not exist within the MSM.

There is no “news” any more, it is all opinion and repeated over and over.

Media is NOT trustworthy in general. Socialist media is the least trustworthy. Ends justifies the means for all socialist liberal media.

Many people don’t take the time to read the story much less fact check them and just pass them on.

facebook you should ban all the famous new’s channels and new’s papers/pure corrupt

Slowly but surely we are headed for full blown socialist-fascist state! These two hacks are dangerous!

I want to be able to make my own decision someone state a page like FB and keep it open.

Sounds like the fact checkers are some that are biased and fake the news themselves.

Really don’t need the Facebook Gestapo to fix it, we are adult enough to sort things out.

…so now Facebook is the arbiter of “real” or to be contrasted with “fake” news? My God where will censorship of thought or control of message end? Thankfully they can’t burn books that don’t align to the FB version of fact or fiction…

I don’t trust face book to do the right thing. they seem to be stoping the truth from comeing out.

Do you have any fact-based information on the supposed Russian influence in the presidential election? I’ve never read anything from the CIA or any named whistle blowers.

I just read that Facebook is going to work with Snopes, Factcheck.org, both left-leaning and biased against conservative news, and they will label anything they disagree with as fake news.

Here from Indiana…….cannot make everyone happy at all times…….FB is doing fine work.

All FB wants to accomplish by doing this is strengthen their liberal bias echo chamber they’ve created. Until their practices change, they are nothing more than extended distributors of all things liberal created by the biased, liberal MSM in this country.