Journalists “end up amplifying falsehoods.”
All the big American media outlets “failed to rebut President Donald Trump's misinformation 65% of the time in their tweets about his false or misleading comments,” according to a Media Matters study.
The study found that major U.S. media outlets amplified Trump's lies and disinformation over 400 times during the three-week study period, or 19 times per day, without identifying in the same moment that the information is just total bullshit and shouldn't be taken as truth.
That's not good.
The data shows that news outlets are still failing to grapple with a major problem that media critics highlighted during the Trump transition: When journalists apply their traditional method of crafting headlines, tweets, and other social media posts to Trump, they end up passively spreading misinformation by uncritically repeating his falsehoods.
The way people consume information in the digital age makes the accuracy of a news outlet’s headlines and social media posts more important than ever, because research shows they are the only thing a majority of people actually read. But journalists are trained to treat a politician’s statements as intrinsically newsworthy, often quoting them without context in tweets and headlines and addressing whether the statement was accurate only in the body of the piece, if at all. When the politician’s statements are false, journalists who quote them in headlines and on social media without context end up amplifying the falsehoods.
Anecdotally, it’s been clear for some time that journalists have not adjusted their practices for the Trump era in which, according to The Washington Post, the president has already made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims. In recent months, Media Matters has explored how news outlets have passively misinformed the public by passing along misinformation from Trump administration figures on topics like threats of violence against journalists, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, potential conflict with North Korea, Special Olympics funding, and whether the Obama administration was “spying” on Trump associates.
And here are the data highlights:
• 30% of the tweets by major media outlets’ Twitter accounts about Trump remarks referenced a false or misleading statement.
• Nearly two-thirds of the time, the outlets did not dispute that misinformation.
• That means the outlets amplified false or misleading Trump claims without disputing them 407 times over the three weeks of the study, an average of 19 times a day.
• The extent to which outlets’ Twitter feeds passively spread Trump’s misinformation depended on the platform in which Trump made his comments. For example:
• 92% of false or misleading Trump claims went undisputed when he was speaking at a press gaggle or pool spray.
• 49% of false or misleading Trump claims went undisputed when outlets were responding to comments he made during formal speeches.
• @TheHill was the worst actor and sent more than 40% of the tweets that pushed Trump’s misinformation without disputing it during our entire study.
Read more: Major media outlets' Twitter accounts amplify false Trump claims on average 19 times a day MMFA/MATT GERTZ/ROB SAVILLO