Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

Less than you think: Prevalence and predictors of fake news dissemination on Facebook

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Science Advances  09 Jan 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 1, eaau4586
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4586
  • Fig. 1 Distribution of total and fake news shares.

    (Left) Histogram of the total number of links to articles on the web shared by respondents in the sample who identified as Democrats, Republicans, or independents. (Right) Stacked histogram of the number of fake news articles shared by respondents who identified as Democrats, Republicans, or independents using the measure derived from (7).

  • Fig. 2 Average number of fake news shares (and 95% CIs) using the list of domains derived from (7).

    (A) Party identification, (B) age group, (C) ideological self-placement, and (D) overall number of Facebook wall posts. Proportions adjusted to account for sample-matching weights derived from the third wave of the SMaPP YouGov panel survey.

  • Table 1 Distribution of fake news shares.

    012345–1011–50
    1090 (91.5%)63 (5.3%)12 (1.0%)8 (0.01%)5 (<0.01%)9 (0.01%)4 (<0.01%)
  • Table 2 Determinants of fake news sharing on Facebook.

    Quasi-Poisson models with YouGov’s sample-matching weights applied. Dependent variables are counts of fake news articles shared using measures derived from (7) (columns 1 and 2) and (2) (columns 3 and 4). The reference category for ideology is “Not sure.” “Number of links shared” refers to the number of Facebook posts by each respondent that includes a link to an external URL. A&G, Allcott and Gentzkow.

    Number of stories sharedNumber of stories shared (A&G)
    (1)(2)(3)(4)
    Very liberal0.4870.3871.634*1.485*
    (1.238)(1.209)(0.876)(0.800)
    Liberal−1.127−1.1410.8730.812
    (1.439)(1.404)(0.886)(0.809)
    Moderate0.3330.3920.7480.824
    (1.186)(1.157)(0.875)(0.799)
    Conservative2.187*2.248**1.736**1.800**
    (1.155)(1.128)(0.868)(0.794)
    Very conservative2.366**2.297**2.231**2.087***
    (1.158)(1.132)(0.869)(0.795)
    Age: 30–440.7720.7420.2530.172
    (0.811)(0.791)(0.390)(0.356)
    Age: 45–651.1361.0790.602*0.488
    (0.765)(0.746)(0.359)(0.328)
    Age: over 652.052***1.900**1.389***1.152***
    (0.766)(0.750)(0.362)(0.333)
    Female−0.1140.008−0.329**−0.199
    (0.217)(0.219)(0.155)(0.146)
    Black−0.880−0.806−0.609−0.536
    (0.754)(0.736)(0.400)(0.366)
    Education−0.085−0.091−0.021−0.021
    (0.081)(0.081)(0.055)(0.052)
    Income−0.007−0.0070.0030.003
    (0.008)(0.008)(0.004)(0.003)
    Number of links shared0.001***0.001***
    (0.0002)(0.0001)
    Constant−3.416**−3.635***−1.201−1.502*
    (1.379)(1.348)(0.931)(0.851)
    N1041104010411040

    *P < 0.1

    **P < 0.05

    ***P < 0.01.

    • Table 3 Comparison of samples.

      FB, Facebook.

      Full sampleSample 2*Sample 3PSample 4§
      % Democrat3132400.1740
      Mean ideology (five-point)2.982.892.760.012.75
      % Vote intention (Clinton)3637470.0747
      % Voted in 2016 general0.590.590.630.010.63
      % Knowledge (0–2)2.052.042.130.032.13
      Mean age5149490.1649
      % High school or less2320220.1722
      Self-reported
      % Post to FB several times/day26280.2828
      % Look at FB often65670.4268
      N3500271113311191

      *Column 2 summarizes characteristics of respondents who said in the survey that they have a Facebook account (i.e., they selected “Facebook” from the list of response options to the question “Do you have accounts on any of the following social media sites?”).

      †Column 3 subsets to respondents (regardless of their answer in the previous question) who consented to share Facebook profile information with the researchers.

      P values are computed from t tests of the difference in means between the sample of respondents who reported having a Facebook account and those who consented to provide access to their profile data.

      §The final column subsets to those who shared any Facebook data at all that we were able to link back to the survey.

      Supplementary Materials

      • Supplementary material for this article is available at http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/5/1/eaau4586/DC1

        Tables S1–S13. Determinants of fake news sharing on Facebook (alternate specification).

        Table S14. Determinants of hard news sharing on Facebook.

        Fig. S1. Average number of fake news articles shared by age group (with 95% confidence intervals), using the URL-level measure derived from (2).

      • Supplementary Materials

        This PDF file includes:

        • Tables S1–S13. Determinants of fake news sharing on Facebook (alternate specification).
        • Table S14. Determinants of hard news sharing on Facebook.
        • Fig. S1. Average number of fake news articles shared by age group (with 95% confidence intervals), using the URL-level measure derived from (2).

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