Jonathan Albright
3 min readNov 15, 2016


⚠️ This is a supplemental research observations post; the embed below has a {*Table of Contents*} for the five main articles in this #fakenews series:

“Fake News” Sites: Certified Organic?

Where does the traffic actually come from? Here’s a comparative traffic breakdown from a sample of five “fake news” sites (according to Fake News Watch):

Traffic Share (Source: SimilarWebPro)
Category Breakdown (Source: SimilarWebPro)

These five sites alone accounted for close to 30 million website visits in the three months leading up to the election. The number of impressions driven within Facebook, Twitter, emails, messaging apps and other mobile visits is probably five to ten times this number.

Total Visits (Source: SimilarWebPro)

♻️Algorithms Prefer Organic

While Facebook does appear to account for 50% of the fake news group’s traffic (See “category breakdown” chart above), what is not known is the ratio of content from these sites that was “promoted” vs. organically-driven within Facebook’s platform. However, after doing a search for “Why Brexit Won,” I found this #Truthfeed article ranked eighth in my organic Facebook (“top public post”) results:

Post found in Facebook’s top 10 “Top Public Post” results for “Why Brexit Won” (15-Nov-2016)

Similarly, I found this #Infowar article at the top of both Google’s and Facebook’s search results for “Why Brexit Won”:

Facebook’s top “Top Public Post” result for “Why Brexit Won” search query (15-Nov-2016); [Why Brexit Won] (, US IP, 15-Nov-2016)

These results suggest that much of the “fake” and hyper-biased political news content is organically “seeded” — fitting with my idea (see story above) that “data-driven” public relations and strategic behavioral audience “micro-targeting” was the primary force behind the intentional spreading of this type of misinformation during #Election2016.


Source: NewsWhip

The data I have here suggests that a good portion of the fake news (misinformation) is entering Facebook, Twitter, etc. through “old school” mechanisms — emails, email newsletters, organic search results — and by audiences going directly to these fake news websites.

Sites linking directly to (Source:

Bottom line: There’s no magical “algorithmic” solution to the fake news problem; It’s the real #Infowars — a component of the new data-driven election PR strategy (or election “PsyOps,” if you like).

Breaking: New Fake News Algorithm Discovered!! (Source: Fake News Generator)



Jonathan Albright

Professor/researcher. Award-nominated data journalist. Media, data, & tech frmly #columbiajournalism #towcenter #berkmanklein #elonuniversity