During election time in the United States a high volume of fake news and stories circulated on social media. After election day these were believed to have affected the outcome of the election. Nonetheless, according to a study by economists Matthew Gentzkow of Stanford University and Hunt Allcott of New York University their impact on voters was negligible.
Many fake news stories performed well online. According to their research, stories favoring Trump were shared over 30 million times on Facebook, while those favoring Clinton were shared 8 million times.
Indeed, Buzzfeed News editor Craig Silverman reported, “During [the final three] months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.”
“Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (This analysis focused on the top performing link posts for both groups of publishers, and not on total site engagement on Facebook.)”
Even if fake news outperformed real ones, they found social media was an important but not dominant source of news in the run-up to the election, with only 14% of US citizens calling social media their “most important” source of election news.
Also, the authors point out that the people surveyed hardly remember the fake headline they were presented. “The average American saw and remembered 0.92 pro-Trump fake news stories and 0.23 pro-Clinton fake news stories, with just over half of those who recalled seeing fake news stories believing them.”
Certainly, fake news can mislead and misinform people but the study concluded that fake online news is not as big of a threat as they may seem to be. Instead TV remains a powerful force in the news media.
But even if they didn’t alter the election results they are part of a new information era with the post truth and post fact trends and now the alternative facts phenomenon.
‘Alternative facts’ was the phrase Kellyanne Conway used to describe and defend press secretary Sean Spincer’s remarks on the inaugural numbers. It challenges the delineation between facts and falsehoods and lets one person say something and then another says the opposite by calling it ‘your facts.’
Latin American Post