President Donald Trump has spent years using Facebook to spread misinformation and foment hostility toward his perceived political enemies, benefiting directly from the platform’s algorithm, inconsistent rule enforcement, and many exceptions for political content.
After a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Facebook finally took action against the president’s account by suspending its ability to post -- temporarily. And although it’s still early, without Trump's posts, the makeup of the top posts on the platform already appears to be shifting.
During a 24-hour period starting 8 a.m. EST on January 5, the top 10 posts on Facebook were all from Trump -- and each contained explicit misinformation. Following the platform’s temporary ban of the president, Media Matters analyzed posts and interaction data from right-leaning, left-leaning, and ideologically nonaligned pages that frequently post about U.S. political news.
We found that total daily interactions of right-leaning pages significantly dropped after Trump was suspended and that right-leaning, left-leaning, and nonaligned pages each earned roughly a third of total engagement during this time.
In a previous study of engagement from political pages on Facebook, right-leaning pages accounted for 45% of total interactions earned between January 1 and December 15, 2020. In fact, engagement data of political Facebook pages since the presidential election shows that right-leaning pages consistently earned more total daily interactions than left-leaning or nonaligned pages, but equalized in these two days after Trump’s temporary suspension.
Discussions about the influence of Facebook’s news feed during and after the 2020 presidential election made clear the platform actively chooses to prioritize profit and sensationalism over all else. Time will tell if the platform will make the same choice when it comes to determining if Trump’s ban will be permanent or a short-term slap on the wrist.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1, 2020, to August 25, 2020.
For an explanation of how we compiled pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here.
The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts by pages on this list posted between November 7, 2020, and January 7, 2021, and reviewed data for these posts, including total interactions -- reactions, comments, and shares.