Supporters of President Trump have come into the habit of labeling mainstream, hopelessly-biased stories from CNN and The New York Times as “fake news” in an effort to take back the narrative from the left that fake news on Facebook and elsewhere threw the 2016 election to Trump. But a new study says that the narrative itself – that Russian-based troll farms were churning out fake stories that were shared widely on social media and may have cost Clinton the victory – is flawed to the point of uselessness. In other words, as Reason.com put it in their story, the “fake news epidemic was…fake news.”
Most social media users still know bullshit when they see it, a new study suggests. In a study of social media behavior during the 2016 election, more than 90 percent of their sample “shared no stories from fake news domains,” a trio of researchers reports in Science Advances.
The study has been getting a good deal of media attention, mainly for the parts that confirm people’s biases. “Conservatives were more likely to share articles from fake news domains,” states the study abstract. And “on average, users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as the youngest age group.”
The conservative bit comes with a caveat: In 2016, fake news domains “were largely pro-Trump in orientation.” So it’s not necessarily that conservatives are more susceptible than moderates or liberals to propaganda; it could just be that there was more propaganda aimed at them.
In other words, yes, there were people forwarding outright “fake news” during the election, but very few people were falling for it. Which is something we suspected to be the case all along. It’s one thing to post a link to a story saying “Pope Endorses Donald Trump for President”; it’s another to actually buy into that kind of thing. The left, however, takes such a dim view of conservative Americans, that they felt certain that we were all a bunch of mindless sheep just as likely to believe the fiction coming out of a Macedonian troll site as we were the truth.
“The vast majority of Facebook users in our data did not share any articles from fake news domains in 2016 at all,” the study says. “This is not because people generally do not share links: While 3.4% of respondents for whom we have Facebook profile data shared 10 or fewer links of any kind, 310 (26.1%) respondents shared 10 to 100 links during the period of data collection and 729 (61.3%) respondents shared 100 to 1000 links.”
This was always a scam to make it seem as though some nefarious overseas actors were manipulating the public. Because HOW ELSE would you explain why so many people voted for the evil Donald Trump? HOW ELSE would you explain why America passed up the chance to elect the first female president? It had to be Russia. It had to be fake news.
Well, it wasn’t.