Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

On Facebook, right-leaning pages are leading the conversation about Trump’s arraignment

Right-leaning pages earned over 53% of interactions — nearly 2 million — on posts about the arraignment from U.S. politics and news pages

According to a new Media Matters study, right-leaning Facebook pages led the conversation about former President Donald Trump’s indictment in the 24 hours after he arrived at the New York courthouse for his arraignment, earning the most total interactions on related posts compared to other news and politics pages, despite ideologically nonaligned pages posting the most.

Other key findings include:

  • Right-leaning pages accounted for 64 of the top 100 posts about the arraignment that were posted from news and politics pages between 2 p.m. ET on April 4 and 2 p.m. ET on April 5. The 64 posts earned over 1 million total interactions. 
  • Trump’s livestream of his speech at Mar-a-Lago following his arraignment earned the most interactions during that timeframe, with nearly 122,000 interactions and nearly 650,000 views. In fact, Trump’s livestream is one of a total of 6 posts from right-leaning pages in the top 10 posts to receive the most interactions. The other 5 posts earned over 216,000 total interactions and expressed support for Trump or attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. 
  • Posts about the arraignment from right-leaning Facebook pages attacked Bragg, amplified attacks on Judge Juan Merchan – the judge handling Trump’s case – and his daughter, defended and praised Trump, and shared other related right-wing narratives.
  • Trump was arraigned on April 4 for 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments during the 2016 presidential election — after a New York grand jury voted to indict the former president on March 30, making him the first current or former American president to face criminal charges. (He pleaded not guilty to all counts.) 

    For years, conservatives have falsely claimed that social media platforms like Facebook are biased against them, continuing to attack the company even after it has bent its rules to appease them. Media Matters and others have repeatedly debunked these claims, including showing that Facebook incentivizes sensational political content in a way that effectively makes it a propaganda machine for the right. 

    Media Matters has documented numerous instances in which right-leaning pages have dominated the conversation on Facebook following major breaking news stories. The conversation surrounding Trump’s arraignment is no exception.

  • Right-leaning pages earned the most total interactions on related posts, even though ideologically nonaligned pages posted the most

  • Facebook pages that regularly post about news and politics shared nearly 5,300 posts about Trump’s arraignment between 2 p.m. ET on April 4 and 2 p.m. ET on April 5, earning over 3.6 million total interactions on these posts. 

    Ideologically nonaligned pages accounted for the largest portion of these posts, sharing approximately 43% of them (or 2,281), but earning only about 18% of total interactions (656,118). Right-leaning pages, meanwhile, shared just about 36% of posts (or 1,929), but earned over 53% of total interactions – nearly 2 million. Left-leaning pages shared roughly 13% of posts about Trump’s arraignment (or 1,081), earning less than 30% of total interactions (just over 1 million). 

  • Engagement data for posts about Trump’s arraignment from Facebook pages that post about U.S. political news
  • Nearly two-thirds of the 100 posts with the most interactions were from right-leaning pages, including the majority of the top 10 posts

  • Right-leaning pages accounted for 64 of the 100 posts with the most total interactions, earning over 1 million in total. The post to earn the most total interactions was from Trump’s Facebook page, livestreaming his speech at Mar-a-Lago following his arraignment. The livestream earned nearly 650,000 views on Facebook, despite being laden with falsehoods and threats that seemingly violate Facebook’s policies.

  • Trump post-arraignment speech livestream on facebook
  • Including Trump’s livestream, right-leaning pages accounted for 6 of the 10 posts that earned the most total interactions, earning nearly 338,000 total interactions. All 6 of these posts expressed support for Trump or attacked Bragg. 

  • Trump arraignment top 10 Facebook page posts collage
  • Networks of Facebook pages amplified right-wing media’s content across the platform

  • Facebook has a history of profiting from networks of right-wing pages that exploit its platform to amplify pro-Trump and other right-wing narratives

    Fox News’ network of 14 Facebook pages shared at least 125 posts about Trump’s arraignment during the studied time period, earning nearly 306,000 total interactions on these posts – many of which amplified attacks on Bragg.

  • Fox News Page collage attacking bragg
  • Ten Facebook pages run by TheBlaze shared at least 75 posts about Trump’s arraignment, earning nearly 140,000 total interactions. Several of these posts featured a clip of Blaze Media co-founder Mark Levin calling Trump a “martyr for liberty.” 

  • TheBlaze Facebook Page Trump arraignment collage
  • The Daily Wire’s network of 19 Facebook pages shared at least 77 posts about Trump’s arraignment, earning over 34,000 total interactions. Some posts amplified comments from right-wing figures such as Elon Musk and Megyn Kelly attacking the indictment, while others showed scenes from pro-Trump protests in Manhattan.

  • Daily Wire Facebook Page Trump Arraignment collage
  • Right-wing outlet The Western Journal operates a network of Facebook pages that shared at least 248 posts about Trump’s arraignment, earning over 19,000 total interactions on these posts. Many of these posts amplified Trump’s attacks on the presiding judge and his daughter.

  • Western Journal Facebook Page Trump Arraignment Collage
  • Methodology

  • Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1 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.

    Every day, Media Matters also uses Facebook's CrowdTangle tool and this methodology to identify and share the 10 posts with the most interactions from top political and news-related Facebook pages.

    Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts about Trump’s arraignment from the pages on this list that were posted between April 4 at 2 p.m. ET and April 5 at 2 p.m. ET. We reviewed data for these posts, including total interactions (reactions, comments, and shares).

    We defined posts as being about Trump’s arraignment if they had any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “Manhattan district attorney,” “Manhattan DA,” “Bragg,” “indictment,” “indicted,” “arraigned,” “arraignment,” “arrest,” “arrested,” “mug shot,” “mugshot,” “pro-Trump,” “rally for Trump,” “Trump,” “former president,” or “post-arrest.”