A recent study has found that Facebook was the biggest gateway for fake news in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
The social media site was by far the top disseminator of fake news articles, putting it ahead of email, Google and Twitter, according to three political scientists. Their findings are based on actual web traffic data pulled from 2,525 Americans, all of whom consented to the study.
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"We estimate that approximately 1 in 4 Americans visited a fake news website from October 7-November 14, 2016," their paper says.
Based on their sample set, the political scientists estimate 22 percent of the fake news visits they identified were funneled to Americans via Facebook.
Email providers such as Yahoo or Gmail were responsible for over 6 percent. Meanwhile, both Google and Twitter each may have spread less than 2 percent.
The study, which The New York Times publicized on Tuesday, offers some actual hard data on how fake news is being consumed. It also comes as Facebook itself is trying to fight misinformation over the platform.
Third-party fact-checking websites have been seen as one way to stop fake news from fooling readers. However, these efforts appear to be failing to reach the public. According to the study, when people consume false news, they hardly ever read the corresponding fact-check debunking the fake claims.
But even as the study estimates that millions of Americans are encountering fake news, most of the time people are still viewing the real news. For instance, during the 2016 election, fake news made up only 6 percent of the total news articles visited by supporters of Donald Trump.
For Hillary Clinton supporters, the percentage was at 0.8 percent.
Ironically, people who read the most fake news, also read a great deal of real news, the study found. Much of the fake news viewing was also concentrated among Trump supporters.
"The 10 percent of Americans with the most conservative information diets consumed an average of 33.16 articles from pro-Trump fake news websites," the study said.
The remaining 90 percent more rarely consumed fake news articles, averaging between 0.43 to 4.2 article visits in the study period.
The professors behind the research include Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College, Andrew Guess of Princeton University and Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter. A limitation of the study was it looked only at website visits, and didn't account for fake news consumption over mobile devices, or how users interacted with the social media platforms directly.
This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.