Fake news was, unsurprisingly, a concern during the 2020 US presidential elections. Fake news is 70% more likely to be shared than real news and in the run up to the 2016 election, it accounted for 6% of all news.
Fake news about voter fraud was widely spread
The most widely shared misinformation in 2020 – including by President Trump himself – was around voter fraud. This claim was a result of the increase in mail-in ballots as, due to the pandemic, many preferred not to vote in person.
There were also concerns that some mail-in ballots were being destroyed by officials before being counted. This claim came from pictures of ballot envelopes in California being dumped. However, it was later confirmed that the pictures were of old empty envelopes that were disposed of legally.
Despite many claims of voter fraud, numerous national and state-level studies show that it is rare in the US. And although the spread of misinformation was rife, the 2020 election was deemed “the most secure in American history.”
Social media platforms did too little, too late
The crack-down on misinformation by the major social media platforms helped. In 2020, all major social media companies implemented policies to tackle fake news about the election including banning political ads, removing fake accounts, flagging dubious content and deleting posts that violate content rules.
But, even with these extra measures, some say they acted too late. According to a post-election report, if Facebook had altered their algorithms earlier, they could have prevented an estimated 10.1 billion views on the 100 most prominent pages that repeatedly shared misinformation.
Misinformation affects everyone
Whilst most fake news is conservative-leaning, it can appear on both sides of the political aisle. For example, when Trump caught COVID-19, there were theories from Democrat-supporting social media accounts that his following public appearances were made by a body double.
So, regardless of your political beliefs, you still need to look out for misinformation.