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Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election

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  • Hunt Allcott
  • Matthew Gentzkow

Abstract

Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, many have expressed concern about the effects of false stories (“fake news”), circulated largely through social media. We discuss the economics of fake news and present new data on its consumption prior to the election. Drawing on web browsing data, archives of fact-checking websites, and results from a new online survey, we find: (i) social media was an important but not dominant source of election news, with 14 percent of Americans calling social media their “most important” source; (ii) of the known false news stories that appeared in the three months before the election, those favoring Trump were shared a total of 30 million times on Facebook, while those favoring Clinton were shared 8 million times; (iii) the average American adult saw on the order of one or perhaps several fake news stories in the months around the election, with just over half of those who recalled seeing them believing them; and (iv) people are much more likely to believe stories that favor their preferred candidate, especially if they have ideologically segregated social media networks.

Suggested Citation

  • Hunt Allcott & Matthew Gentzkow, 2017. "Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election," NBER Working Papers 23089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23089
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ngo Van Long & Martin Richardson & Frank Stähler, 2018. "Media, Fake News, and Debunking," CESifo Working Paper Series 6949, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Michail Batikas & Jörg Claussen & Christian Peukert, 2018. "Follow The Money: Online Piracy and Self-Regulation in the Advertising Industry," CESifo Working Paper Series 6852, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Fabrizio Germano & Francesco Sobbrio, 2016. "Opinion dynamics via search engines (and other algorithmic gatekeepers)," Economics Working Papers 1552, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Mar 2018.
    4. repec:eee:cysrev:v:85:y:2018:i:c:p:143-150 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:pal:palcom:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-017-0021-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Casarico, Alessandra & Tonin, Mirco, 2018. "Pay-What-You-Want to Support Independent Information: A Field Experiment on Motivation," IZA Discussion Papers 11366, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Ngo Van Long & Martin Richardson & Frank Stahler, 2018. "Media, fake news, and debunking," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2018-659, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
    8. repec:spr:homoec:v:34:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s41412-017-0053-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:pal:palcom:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-017-0014-3 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C52 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Evaluation, Validation, and Selection
    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • J60 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - General

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