(An investigation in which we decide to use Facebook’s social graph API to see whether fake news or real news is more viral).

UPDATE: Since posting, there has been some discussion about this post’s use of the phrase “top stories from local newspapers”. A clarification on how that phrase is used has been appended at the end of the post with some methodology, and some small clarifying edits have been made. The title and core claim of the post remains accurate and stands. What we present here is not the best possible measure of fake vs. real virality, but it is a meaningful one, and deserves to be addressed.

Mark Zuckerberg told us recently that fake stories on Facebook were quite rare, less than 1% of total content. I’m not sure how he computes “content”, exactly. Is my status update content? Each photo I upload?

Mark Zuckerberg says the notion that fake news influenced the U.S. presidential election is “a pretty crazy idea.”

He also says his company has studied fake news and found it’s a “very small volume” of the content on Facebook. He did not specify if that content is more or less viral or impactful than other information.

Well, if Zuckerberg can’t specify if fake news is more viral on Facebook, maybe we can, using the publicly available Facebook APIs. Let’s help him out!

The question I want to ask is this: how do popular fake Facebook stories from fake local newspapers compare to top stories from real local newspapers? Not “how many stories are there of each” but rather “Is fake news or real news more likely to be shared, and what’s the size of the difference?”

If Facebook is truly a functioning news ecosystem we should expect large local newspapers like the Boston Globe and LA Times to compete favorably with fake “hoax” newspapers like the Baltimore Gazette or Denver Guardian — fake “papers” that were created purely to derive ad views from people looking for invented Clinton conspiracies.

For our fake story, we’re choosing the most popular story from the Denver Guardian, a fake newspaper created in the final days of the election. Its story “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide”has now been shared on Facebook well over half a million times, as you can see with this call to Facebook’s API. This story exists on a site made to look like a real local newspaper and details quotes from people both real and fake about the murder-suicide of an FBI agent and his wife supposedly implicated in leaking Clinton’s emails. According to the story he shot himself and his wife and then set his house on fire. Pretty fishy, eh? Add it to the Clinton Body Count.

This Article was originally published on Hap Good

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