Kevin Drum points out that if you search on Google to find out whether Hillary won the popular vote (she did) that one of the top results lies, right in the headline.
How does 70news, a right wing site fond of claiming Trump protests are being funded by prominent Jewish banker George Soros, get to the top of this Google result?
While I don’t know how this manifests in the algorithm, I am going to guess that the ranking this story gets is a result of attention and audience given to the story by Facebook. Let’s go to the Facebook API and take a look at the shares of these three top stories>
- Heavy.com (“Are There Still Uncounted Ballots?”): 202 shares.
- New York Times (“Clinton’s Substantial Popular Vote Win”): 65,398 shares.
- 70news (“Final Election 2016 Numbers: Trump Won Both Popular and Electoral College Vote”): 252,158 shares.
Yes — you’re reading that right. A story from a site the specializes in various forms of alt-right conspiracies outperformed the New York Times on shares on this issue; in fact they got 300% more shares than the story from New York Times.
And Twitter? If you go to the 70news article now you’ll find that the writer got these numbers “off of Twitter.” The mind reels. It’s Facebook at the center of a whole conspiracy clickbait ecosystem.
One other thing to note here: most people get their news from headlines, not articles. So the minute you see that headline in a search result, the fake news is validated and becomes part of what people know. You can check out Lisa Fazio’s work on this if you want, on exposure to wrong information. We don’t really know what’s true — we only know what “sounds more familiar”. Facebook, Google, and Twitter have made the false many degrees more familiar than the true.
You might also check out this related story on the relative virality of fake versus real stories..