Trends in the Diffusion of Misinformation on Social Media

15 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2019 Last revised: 6 Mar 2021

See all articles by Hunt Allcott

Hunt Allcott

New York University (NYU)

Matthew Gentzkow

Stanford University

Chuan Yu

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2019

Abstract

In recent years, there has been widespread concern that misinformation on social media is damaging societies and democratic institutions. In response, social media platforms have announced actions to limit the spread of false content. We measure trends in the diffusion of content from 569 fake news websites and 9,540 fake news stories on Facebook and Twitter between January 2015 and July 2018. User interactions with false content rose steadily on both Facebook and Twitter through the end of 2016. Since then, however, interactions with false content have fallen sharply on Facebook while continuing to rise on Twitter, with the ratio of Facebook engagements to Twitter shares decreasing by 60 percent. In comparison, interactions with other news, business, or culture sites have followed similar trends on both platforms. Our results suggest that the relative magnitude of the misinformation problem on Facebook has declined since its peak.

Suggested Citation

Allcott, Hunt and Gentzkow, Matthew and Yu, Chuan, Trends in the Diffusion of Misinformation on Social Media (January 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25500, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3328323

Hunt Allcott (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

Matthew Gentzkow

Stanford University ( email )

Chuan Yu

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
STANFORD, CA 94305-6072
United States

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