Facebook engagement on misleading posts has tripled since 2016.

  • Engagement on Facebook posts from misleading websites has spiked by 242 percent from 3Q of 2016 to 3Q of 2020, according to a new report from German Marshall Fund Digital.
  • Only 10 outlets, which researchers labeled as “False Content Producers” or “Manipulators,” were responsible for 62% of interactions. 
  • Facebook in the past has been slammed by civil rights leaders for inadequately handling the spread of misinformation on its platform.
  • Facebook’s attempts to moderate misinformation on the platform come into focus ahead of the US presidential election. 
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Engagement from misleading websites on Facebook has tripled since the 2016 US presidential election.

The total number of user interactions with articles from “deceptive outlets” has increased by 242% between the third quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2020, according to a study published Monday by the German Marshall Fund Digital, the digital wing of the Washington, DC-based public policy think tank. 

Only 10 outlets — out of thousands — received 62% of those interactions, GMF Digital found. The researchers categorized outlets as either “False Content Producers” for sites, including The Federalist, that provide information that’s false, and “Manipulators” for sites, like Breitbart, that present claims that aren’t backed by evidence. 

The study concluded that since the third quarter of 2016, the number of articles from False Content Producers jumped by 102 percent and the number of articles from Manipulators increased by 293 percent. 

“Disinformation is infecting our democratic discourse at rates that threaten the long-term health of our democracy,” Karen Kornbluh, director of GMF Digital, said in a press release. “A handful of sites masquerading as news outlets are spreading even more outright false and manipulative information than in the period around the 2016 election.”

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that