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A year ago, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the social network would change its news feed to prioritize “meaningful social interaction.” One year in, a report issued by NewsWhip this month reveals that fake news stories still dominate our feed, along with polarizing content. Furthermore, Likes, shares, comments, and reactions on Facebook are back on the rise.
The two most-shared stories on Facebook in 2018 were about a child predator and abortion—both being fake or at least misleading stories. The top-shared story was titled: “Suspected Human Trafficker, Child Predator May Be In Our Area,” by a local radio station in Texas, but instead of saying the specific place where the predator could have been, it simply says “our area” which may have triggered the shares, according to Nieman Lab. The other abortion story appeared on the site lifenews.com and was fake.
The news sites that attracted the most engagement were Fox News, NBC, the Daily Mail, CNN, and the Daily Wire.
The report revealed that overall engagement on the social platform increased significantly compared to 2017. According to the report, the posts that received the most engagement tended to be about divisive topics such as religion, abortion, and politics. “In short, everything we are taught from a young age not to bring up at a dinner party is ripe for conversation on social media,” NewsWhip finds.
When Zuckerberg announced a change in Facebook’s algorithm last year, he said he wanted users to have “time well-spent” on the site. “There are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams,” he then wrote. That’s likely true, but people’s interests apparently turned elsewhere.
Stéphanie Fillion is a French-Canadian journalist covering politics and foreign affairs in Montreal, Canada. She has worked for Radio-Canada in Vancouver and was a San Paolo fellow at La Stampa in Turin. In 2015, she won the Eu-Canada Young Journalist Award. She holds an M.A. in Journalism, Politics and Global Affairs from Columbia Journalism School and a B.A. in Comparative Politics, History and Italian Studies from McGill University. Her work appeared in outlets such as Quartz, Vice News, Ipolitics, and PassBlue.