In a new study, QSS Steering Committee member Brendan Nyhan, with co-authors Andrew Guess (Princeton University) and Jason Reifler (University of Exeter) examine the reach and effect of fake news.
Though some warnings about online “echo chambers” have been hyperbolic, tendencies toward selective exposure to politically congenial content are likely to extend to misinformation and to be exacerbated by social media platforms. We test this prediction using data on the factually dubious articles known as “fake news.” Using unique data combining survey responses with individual-level web traffic histories, we estimate that approximately 1 in 4 Americans visited a fake news website from October 7-November 14, 2016. Trump supporters visited the most fake news websites, which were overwhelmingly pro-Trump. However, fake news consumption was heavily concentrated among a small group — almost 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites came from the 10% of people with the most conservative online information diets. We also find that Facebook was a key vector of exposure to fake news and that fact-checks of fake news almost never reached its consumers.
You can read the full study here. The study is discussed in a New York Times article "‘Fake News’: Wide Reach but Little Impact, Study Suggests"