Social media and the election: Fake-news writer feels bad, pro-Trump bots, more

How did social media affect the election? We’re continuing to count the ways.

A week after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as “crazy” the idea that fake news on the world’s largest social network affected the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, it’s not seeming so crazy.

The top-performing fake news stories had more engagement on Facebook than the top-performing real news stories in the final three months of the campaign, a BuzzFeed analysis has found. The numbers:  8,711,000 shares, reactions and comments on the fake news items, and 7,367,000 shares, reactions and comments on articles from the likes of the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News and others.

Facebook’s response to BuzzFeed: “There is a long tail of stories on Facebook. It may seem like the top stories get a lot of traction, but they represent a tiny fraction of the total.”

The managing editor of told our own Michelle Quinn that the fact-checking site has seen a traffic spike since the election.

But was there enough fact-checking before?

National Report fake-news writer Paul Horner says no. He tells the Washington Post in a story published today that he feels partly responsible for the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. He talked about an article he made up about a person being paid $3,500 to protest at a Trump rally, something the Trump campaign picked up and ran with.

I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].

Horner has also written fake stories about being Banksy, a coming Facebook monthly user fee and Yelp suing South Park. Now that Google and Facebook — in the wake of the election — have pledged to crack down on fake-news sites using their ad platforms, he’s worried.

“This whole Google AdSense thing is pretty scary,” he told the Post. “And all this Facebook stuff. I make most of my money from AdSense — like, you wouldn’t believe how much money I make from it. Right now I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense.”

(Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s response this week when he was asked about the possible impact of fake news: “It is important to remember this was a very close election and so, just for me, so looking at it scientifically, one in a hundred voters voting one way or the other swings the election either way.”)

Meanwhile, a new Oxford University study published today on chatbots provides further explanation for Trump’s victory by way of Twitter. The study found that “by Election Day, the highly automated pro-Trump bots generated five tweets for each one from a highly automated pro-Clinton account.”

Last week, our own George Avalos wrote about a University of Southern California study that found that 19 percent of election-related posts over a month right before the election came from bots.

What do these bots do, exactly? Philip N. Howard, one of the Oxford report’s authors, told the New York Times that the automated software bots aimed to  rant or confuse people on facts. He called them “yelling fools” that “pass around false news.”


Photos: Donald Trump, left, and Hillary Clinton. (Mary Altaffer, Chuck Burton/AP)


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  • Another mostly Bulls*** article, suggesting that Trump-bots had it over the Hillary trolls. Look, the Big Media spent $zillions on anti-Trump propaganda, especially biggies like CNN who were bashing Trump 24/7. The only thing Trump had in his corner, besides specific plans on specific issues (Hillary had zero), was the meme wars. Decent people enjoy good humor, and Trump won that one big time.

  • naanod

    All the hierarchies of credibility; everyone is wrong and everyone is right.

  • Michael Craig

    Nothing fake about Hillary using Bleach bit software to shred over 30,000 emails while under Congressional subpoena to turn over all her emails on an illegal server. Nothing “fake” about the FBI confirming that numerous emails sent over her unprotected server were deemed Classified and could have potentially harmed the security of our nation. Nothing “fake” about the information gleaned from Wikileaks no matter how it was gotten. Libs don’t argue that the Wikileaks are untrue-just that the “evil empire” as President Reagan used to call it, hacked into and “stole” the election. Really? The problem is the implication is that Russians actually changed votes electronically-they did not. If Hillary had not obstructed the law by illegally using an unapproved server then destroyed evidence, then no one would care about her 30,000 emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding and talking to grandma. If the emails were so innocuous-why hire someone to electronically wipe your server clean so NO traces are available when the Congress of the United States has you under indictment. The only “fake news” that Americans are concerned about is the blatant and obvious media bias for everything and everyone with a far Left agenda. Anyone with even a middle ground opinion is shouted down and bullied by the media who claims to be the protector against bullies. Sorry but you elected a man twice who is such a bully that Eric Snowden is still hiding in Russia. Anyone who is white and even remotely looks or sounds like they voted for Trump should be afraid to speak their minds otherwise they will get a verbal and many times a physical beat down. The Race War started as soon as Obama took office. He was supposed to be a great uniter and healer since millions of whites voted him in office twice-instead we got Beergate, injecting himself into the Treyvon Martin case, police officers executed by BLM extremest in Dallas, and recently a white disabled man kidnapped, tortured, while be screamed at “F***Whitey, and F*** Trump!” Meanwhile the Liberal News media act like their incessant race-baiting for the last 10 years had nothing to do with it. No newscasters on CNN, MSNBC, etc would call the kidnapping and torture of a white disabled man a hate crime or politically motivated even though the video evidence clearly shows otherwise. The media even tried to cover up their part in it by saying “it was just a stupid act by some kids who probably never even watched the news.” The flip side is, if a white person did it-it is immediately labelled a Right Wing Christian Extremist hate crime by someone who obviously watches FOX. Sadly this is accepted as news without ANY fact checking and when it is found out to be a false narrative as it usually is-there is no public apology or cry that it is “fake news.” The reason is-most intelligent, educated people have turned off the fake news on TV long ago. I used to watch CNN and MSNBC but that was like 20 years ago when it seemed more balanced. The fake news is now just about ALL media outlets-CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Facebook, Google, etc, etc. We need Conservative News just to keep treading water. Currently over 90% of media is Liberally biased and they begrudge us the 10%. Thank God there is Twitter otherwise there would be NO way for a Conservative to express their views. The “Fake News” story is just that-a story to cover up what they are really doing and it is called CENSORSHIP. The Nazis did this year’s ago with book burning now we have Progressive Liberals trying to ban all speech they don’t like by mislabelling it as “hate speech.” Sorry but fortunately for America-we don’t like bullies even if they are great at pretending to be other people. Our country does not need to be run by self indulgent idealogues who get paid 100+ times what an average Joe or Jane Blow worker makes. Be grateful that you have a really cool special club you belong to but if you really want to go into politics try reading a history book, the Constitution, and The Declaration of Independence. Most Americans feel the tyrants were all the Liberals in office which is why we voted them all out. Sorry if your media blitzkrieg did not work but Americans know how to stand up to bullies and it is the Left.