How misinformation "superspreaders" spawn mistaken alternative theories


"Because of the way the Facebook algorithm works, these super spreaders can spark discourse," said Fadi Quran, director at Avaaz. “There is often the assumption that misinformation or rumors just get through. These superspreaders show that there is a deliberate attempt to redefine public narrative. "

In the week of November 3, Facebook had around 3.5 million interactions – including likes, comments and shares – with public posts referring to "Stop the Steal". Of these, the profiles of Eric Trump, Diamond and Silk, and Mr. Straka made up a disproportionate proportion – roughly 6 percent, or 200,000, of these interactions.

While the group's impact was remarkable, it did not come close to spreading misinformation that has since been promoted by President Trump. According to Crowdtangle, Facebook's proprietary analytics tool, all of the top 20 most engaged Facebook posts in the past week that contained the word "election" were from Mr. Trump. All of these claims have been found to be false or misleading by independent fact-checkers.

The baseless election fraud claims were used by the President and his supporters to challenge the vote in a number of states. Reports that faulty voting machines, deliberately miscounted mail-in votes, and other irregularities influenced voting were investigated by election officials and journalists who found no evidence of widespread election fraud.

Claims of electoral fraud have continued to gain traction in recent weeks, thanks in large part to prominent reports. A look at four weeks from mid-October shows that President Trump and the top 25 superspreaders of misinformation about electoral fraud accounted for 28.6 percent of interactions with this content, according to an analysis by Avaaz.

"What we see is like these people are lighting a fire with fuel. It is supposed to start a fire quickly," said Quran. "These actors have built enough power to ensure this misinformation reaches millions of Americans."

In an effort to find the super spreaders, Avaaz compiled a list of 95,546 Facebook posts that contained reports of election fraud. These posts have been liked, shared, or commented on by people on Facebook nearly 60 million times.