Despite pledges by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to combat political misinformation and other false reports, there has been an increase in deceptive political news ahead of next year’s presidential election shared on the global network, according to a study published on Wednesday, Politico reported.
The report, conducted by the activist group Avaaz, checked the 100 most widely shared false news stories on Facebook between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, using content that had already been descredited by independent third-party fact-checkers.
The study estimated that, in total, the misinformation had been viewed 158 million times this year.
Almost two-thirds of the false material targeted either Democratic politicians or left-wing causes, according to the study. The other third focused on Republican lawmakers and right-wing issues, with President Donald Trump by the far the largest target.
“We’re heading toward a Titanic-sized disaster” regarding the 2020 election, Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz, told Politico. “Facebook is not being transparent about the problem. There’s no telling how much disinformation content is being spread.”
In response, Facebook said people continued to see false reports on its network, but said it had created digital warnings labels that were tagged to reports that could be potentially false. Much of the content that Avaaz had flagged, however, did not have a warning label.
Luca Nicotra, a senior campaigner with Avaaz, told Vice News that “what is surprising is that the surge of disinformation affecting 2020 is happening much earlier than the 2016 election.”
Making matters worse, the dissemination of disinformation is speeding up. Avaaz estimates that in the last three months there were 86 million views of disinformation, more than three times as many as during the preceding three months.