No, the pope didn't endorse Donald Trump, and, no, Hillary Clinton didn't sell weapons to ISIS. But those fake stories and others like them spread more widely on Facebook than actual news stories before the election, a new BuzzFeed analysis reveals. Specifically, the top 20 fake election stories racked up 8.7 million shares, reactions, and comments in the final three months of the election versus 7.4 million for stories from the likes of the New York Times and the Washington Post. The trend accelerated as Election Day drew near, and all but three of the 20 top performers were pro-Trump or anti-Clinton stories. "I'm troubled that Facebook is doing so little to combat fake news," Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan tells BuzzFeed.
That may be changing. While Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the idea that fake news might have played a role in election results, he subsequently acknowledged that Facebook could do more about the problem. Since then, both Facebook and Google have moved to restrict such stories via ads, including Google barring fake websites from using its AdSense advertising program, reports Reuters. The Washington Post, meanwhile, interviews Paul Horner, one of the leading purveyors of fake stories, who says that "people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything." And he adds this line sure to upset Clinton supporters: "I think Trump is in the White House because of me."