Center Analyzes Misleading Content on Facebook

  • Report cover image.

    “The Big Lie and Big Tech” details the role played by “repeat offenders” — media known to repeatedly publish false and misleading information — in spreading election fraud narratives in online echo chambers during the 2020 election.

Fact checkers have a term for media sources that repeatedly share false or misleading content: misinformation repeat offenders.

The Carter Center’s Digital Threats team studied the prevalence of misinformation repeat offenders in right- and left-leaning Facebook groups during the 2020 U.S. election cycle and published its findings in October in a report titled, "The Big Lie and Big Tech."

The team found that while repeat-offender content turned up in 76% of the groups it studied, the volume of content in right-leaning groups was significantly higher.

In fact, while less than half a percent of links shared in left-leaning groups came from repeat offenders, 20% of links in right-leaning groups came from repeat offenders—and that number jumped to 25% between election day and inauguration day.

For this study, the team used a list of repeat offenders provided by NewsGuard, a nonpartisan fact-checking organization, and then reviewed 2.93 million posts in nearly 900 partisan Facebook groups.

It found that the 20 most frequently shared repeatoffender links associated with voter fraud were shared 283,011 times in right-leaning groups, with a combined possible reach of 31.2 million, yet only a few of those posts were labeled by Facebook as false or misleading.

The Center’s report includes a list of concrete ways social media platforms can help prevent the spread of false narratives in the future—including by adding warning labels to content originating from repeat offenders.

"Social media companies aren’t solely responsible for what happened during the election, but it is hard to overstate the authority Big Tech leaders have over content that appears on their platforms," said Michael Baldassaro, the report’s lead researcher. "They can—and should—enact reforms well in advance of future elections to mitigate threats to election integrity."

Related Resources

Story | Center Fights Digital Threats to Democracy, Human Rights »

Press Release | The Carter Center Releases 'The Big Lie and Big Tech' » 

Report | The Big Lie and Big Tech »

Learn more about the Center's Democracy Program »

Learn more about the Center's Human Rights Program »

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