"Fake news *beat* real news on Facebook over last 3 months of election," Ben Smith at Buzzfeed tweeted out.
Alex Wagner, newly named an anchor at CBS, tweeted "Here's a thing: viral fake news outperformed real news in the last 3 months of the election."
These tweets link to a Buzzfeed story headlined "Viral Fake Election News Outperformed Real News On Facebook In Final Months Of The US Election."
The story has interesting data about the proliferation of a few fake news stories, but it comes nowhere near proving the headline or Ben Smith's tweet, that Fake News Beat Real News.
The methodology is a mess in many ways.
The BuzzFeed study looked only at the top 20 election stories, in terms of engagement, by fake websites and compared it the top 20 election stories from a tiny list of mainstream sites.
The list included left-leaning opinion-heavy outlets like Huffington Post and Vox.
- They didn't include Yahoo News and the Daily Mail, two of the most-read news sites in the U.S.
- Also excluded: Reuters, BBC, Associated Press, Bloomberg, and, ahem, the Washington Examiner. You could add the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune and the major newspapers in every city besides New York, L.A., and D.C.First, it doesn't measure how much traffic went to fake election stories versus real election stories — it only picks the top few stories in each genre.
- Second, the study only chooses from a handful of mainstream sites. Third, the "Real News" stories often aren't real news at all—a point which doesn't undercut the conclusion as much as it shows the silliness of the comparison.
- So the "Real News" numbers are from an incomplete, odd, and unexplained subsample of the media.
Also, the "Real News" isn't even Real News.
Look at the top "Real News" stories to which Buzzfeed compares the fake news stories.
Here's the top "Real News" stories:
- "Trump's history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?" As the headline suggests, this is a liberal opinion piece, complaining that the media doesn't report enough on Trump's scandals.
- No. 2 is "Stop Pretending You Don't Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton." This is a rambling screed claiming that people only dislike Clinton because she is a woman.
- The No. 3 "Real News" story is "Melania Trump's Girl-on-Girl Photos From Racy Shoot Revealed," published at the New York Post..."