Fake news on social media has gotten so bad that it threatens democracy itself, according to President Obama and a host of other deep thinkers. Why, a recent study by Buzzfeed concludes that fake news beat out real news during the past three months of the election. And we all know how that turned out.
There are at least two problems with this. First, the epidemic of fake news is overstated. Second, fake news is far from new.
The Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney took the trouble to look beyond the headlineabout the Buzzfeed analysis. Turns out the “analysis” was not at all rigorous. It compared only the Facebook engagement metrics—the number of shares, reactions, and comments—for a small handful of stories.
The top fake story—about Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump—got 960,000 engagements. The top real story, comparing Trump’s level of corruption to Clinton’s, got 849,000 engagements. If Facebook were the only source for news, that could be alarming—although it’s worth noting that engagement does not equal acceptance. How many of the comments on the Pope Francis story amounted to “Yeah, right!”?