Exploring the Dissemination of Misinformation on Facebook in the United States

Princeton University

Abstract

Too little is known about basic patterns in the consumption and spread of online misinformation. This project will explore this topic by focusing on a particular recent incarnation of online misinformation, so-called fake news. How often does it appear in the average person’s Facebook News Feed? How did it arrive there? How common an activity is sharing fake news, and what does its distribution look like? To answer these and related questions, we propose to analyze the unprecedented new dataset of shared URLs to be made available by Facebook and Social Science One. By querying the data for matches with lists of specific web domains and Facebook pages designated as “fake news” purveyors or persistent sources of misinformation, we will assemble as complete a picture as possible of the prevalence, dynamics, and spread of both misinformation and disinformation on Facebook.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

Andrew Guess

Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University

  • Bio ▾

    Andy Guess (PhD, Columbia University) is an assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. Via a combination of experimental methods, large datasets, and machine learning, he studies how people choose, process, spread, and respond to information about politics. Recent work investigates the extent to which online Americans’ news habits are polarized (the popular “echo chambers” hypothesis), patterns in the consumption and spread of online misinformation, and the effectiveness of efforts to counteract misperceptions encountered on social media. Coverage of these findings has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Slate, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other publications. His research has been supported by grants from the Volkswagen Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the American Press Institute and published in peer-reviewed journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Science Advances, and Political Analysis.

Participants

Jonathan Nagler

Professor of Politics, New York University

  • Bio ▾

    Jonathan Nagler is professor of politics and affiliated faculty at the Center of Data Science at New York University. He is a codirector of the NYU Social Media and Political Participation Laboratory. Nagler is a past president of the Society for Political Methodology, as well as an inaugural fellow of the Society for Political Methodology. Nagler's research focuses on voting and elections and the role of social media, as well as traditional media, in politics. He has been at the forefront of computational social science for many years and pioneered innovative methods for analysis of discrete choice problems. Nagler has produced recent papers on the nature of online ideological media consumption of individuals, the amount of hate speech on Twitter, the impact of exposure to online information on knowledge of politics and political attitudes, and the impact of media coverage of the economy on economic perceptions. Several of these papers have combined survey data with social media consumption in novel ways. Nagler has been a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute, a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and has taught at Harvard, Caltech, and the ICPSR and Essex Summer Programs in Political Methodology. He is a coauthor of Who Votes Now? (Princeton University Press, 2014).

Joshua Tucker

Professor of Politics, New York University

  • Bio ▾

    Joshua A. Tucker is professor of politics, affiliated professor of Russian and Slavic studies, and affiliated professor of data science at New York University. He is the director of NYU’s Jordan Center for Advanced Study of Russia, a codirector of the NYU Social Media and Political Participation laboratory, and a coauthor/editor of the award-winning politics and policy blog the Monkey Cage at the Washington Post. He serves on the advisory board of the American National Election Study, the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, and numerous academic journals, and was the cofounder and coeditor of the Journal of Experimental Political Science. His original research was on mass political behavior in postcommunist countries, including voting and elections, partisanship, public opinion formation, and protest participation. In 2006, he was awarded the Emerging Scholar Award for the top scholar in the field of Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior within 10 years of the doctorate. More recently, he has been at the forefront of the newly emerging field of study of the relationship between social media and politics. His research in this area has included studies on the effects of network diversity on tolerance, partisan echo chambers, online hate speech, the effects of exposure to social media on political knowledge, online networks and protest, disinformation and fake news, how authoritarian regimes respond to online opposition, and Russian bots and trolls. Tucker has been a visiting professor at the Fundación Juan March in Madrid, Spain, and Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome, Italy. His research has appeared in over two dozen scholarly journals and his most recent book is the coauthored Communism’s Shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes (Princeton University Press, 2017).

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