Here at Daily Distortions, we try to debunk false and misleading information that has gone viral. We also want to give you a sense of how popular that misinformation is, in the overall context of what is being discussed on social media. Each Friday, we will feature a list of the 10 most-engaged stories of the week in the United States, as ranked by NewsWhip, a firm that compiles social media performance data. (NewsWhip tracks the number of reactions, shares and comments each story receives on Facebook, along with shares on Pinterest and by a group of influential users on Twitter. This week’s data runs from 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 9, until 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 16.
The most viral article on social media this week was one that social media companies tried to stop from going viral.
Facebook said it would reduce the visibility of an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Hunter Biden, the son of Joseph R. Biden Jr., until a third party could fact-check it. Twitter initially banned all links to the article, saying it made the move because the article contained images showing private personal information and because it viewed the article as a violation of its rules against distributing hacked material. But the article still traveled widely on social media, receiving more than two million interactions.
Here is the full list of the week’s most-engaged stories:
1. New York Post: Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad (2,307,293 interactions)
2. ComicBook.com: Two and a Half Men Star Conchata Ferrell Dies at 77 (1,863,725 interactions)
An obituary for Ms. Ferrell, who played Berta, the housekeeper, on “Two and a Half Men,” was shared widely by the show’s many fans.
3. Fox News: Rep. Doug Collins introduces resolution to push for Pelosi removal as House speaker (1,109,988 interactions)
Mr. Collins’s resolution, which claimed that Representative Nancy Pelosi “does not have the mental fitness” to continue as House speaker, was a largely meaningless symbolic gesture of opposition. But it was red meat for conservatives on Facebook, for whom Ms. Pelosi is an engagement-bait villain.
4. CNBC: Facebook, Twitter make editorial decisions to limit distribution of story claiming to show ‘smoking gun’ emails related to Biden and his son (1,032,917 interactions)
5. ET Online: ‘Dexter’ Revival Starring Michael C. Hall Set at Showtime (960,226 interactions)
Another break from politics, this one about a planned revival of the hit TV show “Dexter,” got nearly a million interactions.
6. The Daily Wire: ‘Legendary’: Barrett Asked To Hold Up Notes She’s Using To Answer Questions. She Holds Up A Blank Notepad. (881,469 interactions)
Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing was the subject of two Top 10 articles this week. This one, from the right-wing news site The Daily Wire, focused on her empty notepad.
7. Fox News: Judge Amy Coney Barrett to face Senate confirmation hearing (872,589 interactions)
8. Whitehouse.gov: Proclamation on Columbus Day, 2020 (861,279 interactions)
A White House proclamation about Columbus Day, which took aim at “radical activists” who “have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy,” was widely shared by right-wing pages on Facebook and by groups like the National Italian American Foundation.
9. Fox News: Pelosi to announce bill on 25th Amendment after questioning Trump’s health (795,962 interactions)
10. The New York Times: California Republican Party Admits It Placed Misleading Ballot Boxes Around State (722,101 interactions)
A Times article about unofficial ballot boxes that Republican operatives placed in California was shared by several large left-wing Facebook pages, including Occupy Democrats and Ridin’ With Biden.