Trump used Facebook to amplify Fox News and its personalities. Of course the network wants him reinstated.
Trump’s suspension on Facebook severed a key path of the Trump-Fox feedback loop, preventing Fox from earning tens of millions of interactions on posts citing the network
After the Facebook Oversight Board put the fate of former President Donald Trump’s account back in Facebook's hands, Fox News spent the day attacking both entities while pushing the baseless claim that social media is biased against conservatives. Fox’s reaction -- and talking points -- is of little surprise, given the symbiotic relationship between Trump and Fox; in fact, Matter Matters’ latest study shows that Trump frequently used Facebook to amplify Fox News, its programming, and its personalities.
Key findings include:
- Trump cited right-wing media outlets in roughly 868 posts between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, when he was suspended from Facebook. Roughly 65% of Trump’s posts mentioning right-wing media outlets exclusively amplified Fox or Fox personalities -- including Fox News, Fox Business, shows such as Fox & Friends, or hosts such as Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity.
- Trump exclusively cited Fox in nearly 10% of his posts -- 565 out of 6,081 -- earning roughly 50 million interactions.
- Of the roughly 99,500 total posts between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, from right-leaning pages that mentioned Fox-related keywords -- the network, its shows, its hosts, and its frequent guests -- Trump accounted for less than 1% of the posts yet earned roughly 10% of all interactions.
On May 5, the Facebook Oversight Board announced its decision to uphold the suspension of former President Donald Trump in response to his actions on January 6. But rather than simply upholding the suspension, the board ruled that Facebook should not have imposed “the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension” and has given the platform six months to “decide the appropriate penalty,” effectively putting the power back into Facebook’s hands. Given Facebook’s poor track record with Trump’s misinformation and harmful rhetoric, it seems unlikely that the platform will make the right decision and permanently ban the former president.
Fox News reacted to the oversight board’s decision as expected -- attacking Facebook for suspending Trump, attacking the board, and using the opportunity to repeat baseless claims that social media companies are censoring conservatives. In fact, there were at least 19 Fox News segments about Facebook on the day of the board’s announcement.
Media Matters has extensively reported on the Fox-Trump feedback loop, which advanced Trump’s political goals and amplified his talking points, while Fox directly influenced policy and enjoyed endorsements from the former president. When Facebook and Twitter suspended Trump from their platforms after Trump incited an insurrection partly using social media, they severed a key part of the feedback loop, preventing Trump from amplifying Fox News and its programming in the same way online.
Trump cited Fox in nearly 10% of his Facebook posts from 2020 through early 2021. These posts earned 50 million interactions.
Media Matters analyzed Trump’s 6,000-plus Facebook posts created between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021. We found that nearly 10% of the posts -- 565 out of 6,081 -- exclusively cited Fox News, Fox Business, Fox & Friends, or popular hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. These posts citing Fox earned over 50 million interactions. And although only 33 of Trump’s posts actually link to FoxNews.com, many more mention or quote the network, its shows, or its personalities.
In his posts between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, Trump mentioned dozens of right-wing media outlets. Overall, roughly 868 of Trump’s 6,081 posts cited right-wing media outlets, mentioning these outlets roughly 890 times in the posts. Besides Fox News and Fox Business, only Breitbart (11%) and One America News (5%) account for a significant amount of Trump’s promotion.
Trump accounts for 10% of all interactions earned on right-leaning posts that mention Fox
Trump was such a significant source of amplification for Fox’s content and personalities on Facebook that he accounted for roughly 10% of the total interactions earned on posts that contained Fox-related keywords.
Using Crowdtangle, Media Matters identified over 99,500 posts from right-leaning pages that mentioned Fox-related keywords -- its networks, shows, hosts, or frequent guests -- and were posted between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021. Of these posts that mention Fox-related keywords, Trump accounted for less than 1% of the posts but roughly 10% of interactions earned. The only right-leaning page that earned more interactions on posts about Fox was Fox News’ official page, which earned about 133 million interactions on nearly 4,500 posts.
Notably, 7 of the top 10 posts from right-leaning pages mentioning Fox between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021 were posted by Trump. Nearly all of Trump’s posts in the top 10 pushed election misinformation and needed to be labeled by Facebook in some way with authoritative information.
How we analyzed Trump’s posts that cite right-wing media outlet
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of all 6,081 posts from Donald Trump’s official page between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021.
Each post was examined by at least two researchers to determine if the post cited a right-wing media outlet, and if so, which one. A third researcher coded the post if the initial two researchers did not agree on a code. The final codes were determined by majority opinion among the three researchers.
To determine which right-leaning media outlet Trump cited, researchers examined:
- Linked articles and videos.
- Embedded or “native” videos posted directly to Trump’s page; outlets were often identified via logo or key personalities.
- Mentions of outlets or news personalities; news personalities, except Hannity and Tucker who had individual codes, were coded based on the media outlet they most prominently represent.
We reviewed the resulting 868 posts, including the total number of interactions -- reactions, comments, and shares -- they earned using CrowdTangle.
How we identified and analyzed all posts from right-leaning pages that were related to Fox
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.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts made by these 1,773 Facebook pages that were posted between January 1, 2020, and January 6, 2021, and related to Fox News and Fox Business.
We defined posts as related to Fox News and Fox Business if a post had any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “fox news,” “fox,” “Bret Baier,” “Baier,” “Maria Bartiromo,” “Bartiromo,” “donna brazile,” “shannon bream,” “bream,” “tammy bruce,” “tucker,” “tucker carlson,” “bartiromo,” “jedediah bila,” “neil cavuto,” “newt gingrich,” “gingrich,” “trey gowdy,” “gowdy,” “greg gutfeld,” “gutfeld,” “hannity,” “sean hannity,” “pete hegseth,” “hegseth,” “mollie hemingway,” “bill hemmer,” “hemmer,” “steve hilton,” “mike huckabee,” “brit hume,” “ingraham,” “gregg jarrett,” “brian kilmeade,” “kilmeade,” “mark levin,” “levin,” “martha maccallum,” “maccallum,” “andrew napolitano,” “judge napolitano,” “charles payne,” “dana perino,” “todd piro,” “byron york,” “jesse watters,” “watters,” “chris wallace,” “wallace,” “varney,” “marc thiessen,” “leo terrell,” “marc siegel,” “nicole saphier,” “john roberts,” “geraldo rivera,” “ed rollins,” “karl rove,” “judge jeanine,” “jeanine pirro,” “jon scott,” “sean duffy,” “duffy,” “ainsley earhardt,” “earhardt,” “doocy,” “trace gallagher,” “melissa francis,” “harris faulkner,” or “faulkner.”
We reviewed the data for the resulting 99,592 posts, including total interactions -- reactions, comments, and shares -- using CrowdTangle.