Engagement with disinformation on Twitter, Facebook dropped in 2021: analysis

Engagement with disinformation on Twitter, Facebook dropped in 2021: analysis
© Getty Images

Engagement with disinformation on Twitter and Facebook dropped in the first three months of 2021 compared to historic highs the year before, according to an analysis released by the German Marshall Fund’s Digital New Deal initiative Thursday. 

The analysis found a 60 percent quarterly decline in the sharing of content from “deceptive sites” by verified accounts on Twitter, and a smaller 15 percent decline on user interactions with content from deceptive sites on Facebook. 

Karen Kornbluh, director of the fund's digital innovation and democracy initiative, attributed the decline to actions the platforms took to combat disinformation in recent months. 


“This encouraging decrease shows that they do in fact have effective tools to tackle disinformation at the source. We encourage platforms to continue taking proactive measures instead of resorting to ineffective, whack-a-mole efforts against content that has already gone viral,” Kornbluh said in a statement. 

The analysis defines deceptive sites as ones that fail news outlet rating service NewsGuard’s test of repeatedly publishing content that is provably false, and those that fail the rating service's test of gathering and presenting information responsibly. 

On Twitter, the sharp decrease of verified accounts sharing links to deceptive sites in the first quarter of the year was driven by declines among top outlets, including Gateway Pundit and Breitbart, according to the analysis. 

Most of the shares of deceptive sites in the peak at the end of 2020 were generated by a few key influencer accounts, including that of former President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE, which were suspended after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, according to the analysis. 

Facebook’s 15 percent dip in interaction with deceptive sites reflects a comparable decline among all U.S-based sites, according to the analysis. 

The drop was dominated by a decline in all interactions with content from several of the largest outlets, but the overall decline was countered by a surge in interactions for The Daily Wire, the analysis found. 


The analysis also found that the share of interactions stemming from the sample of trustworthy outlets increased. 

The German Marshall Fund states that the trend may be due to Facebook’s updates aimed at prioritizing articles that contain news and original reporting within the platform’s News Feed. 

The analysis used data from social media intelligence firm NewsWhip. For Facebook, the analysis measured interactions of likes, comments and shares, and for Twitter it analyzed tweets and retweets by verified accounts.