“Right-leaning”: Macro study confirms that Facebook misinformation is consumed by conservatives
El Pais newspaper of Spain
Facebook is a network dominated by conservative news and its right-wing users overwhelmingly consume information labeled as false. The data that has allowed us to confirm these two hypotheses comes from academic research with unprecedented access to internal Facebook information, provided by the Meta network. The conclusions are based on the aggregate activity of 208 million American users during several months around the 2020 US elections. The article, led by Spanish researcher Sandra González-Bailón, from the University of Pennsylvania, is part of a series of four works that analyze the impact of Meta networks on growing polarization and which were published on Thursday in the journals Science and Nature .
“I did not expect to find some of the results that we have found, with such radical patterns,” says González-Bailón by videoconference from Philadelphia to EL PAÍS. “But this is what the data says,” he adds. The article studies how the combination of user behavior and the algorithm segregate information consumption between progressives and conservatives. Although these two groups exist, they are not symmetrical, as was believed until now: “Audiences that consume political news on Facebook have, in general, a right-wing inclination,” says the article. But the most surprising figure is the difference in the scope of news labeled as false by Meta fact-checkers (which only account for 3% of the total links shared on the network): 97% within that group of pieces. circulates among conservative users.
“It is true that it is the most controversial article,” Professor David García, from the University of Konstanz (Germany), who was able to read the embargoed pieces to write a brief comment in Nature , acknowledges to EL PAÍS. “But it is very important. The evidence we had was not that strong. There was a 2015 study that had problems. They have done it well, as we all would have liked to do.”