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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies during a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing about Twitter's transparency and accountability. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

A new study from the Knight Foundation found that 80% of the Twitter accounts that spread disinformation during the 2016 election are still active today, publishing “more than a million tweets” a day.

The big picture: Twitter has announced repeatedly — even as recently as Monday — it has plans in place to lock and shut down fake news accounts. But those accounts continue to reach millions of people on Twitter as midterm elections loom.

By the numbers: More than 10 million tweets from 700,000 Twitter accounts that linked to more than 600 fake and conspiracy news outlets were examined. The study, one of the largest to date, analyzed how fake news spread on Twitter both during and after the 2016 election.

  • Of the 10 million tweets analyzed, more than 6.6 million tweets were associated with fake news and conspiracy news publishers in the month before the 2016 election.
  • After the election, 4 million tweets were linked to fake and conspiracy news.
  • Sixty-five percent of fake and conspiracy news links during the election went to just the 10 largest sites.
  • Nine of the top 10 fake news sites during the month before the election were still in or near the top 10 six months later.
  • Most accounts spreading fake or conspiracy news are estimated to be bots or semi-automated accounts — the type of accounts Twitter promised to disable.
Key takeaways
  • Fake accounts became more right-leaning after President Trump won the election. Left and liberal-centric accounts were more prevalent before the election.
  • Russian propaganda and bots had a hand in the the accounts that spread conspiracy and fake content. However, much of the intent to spread disinformation was attributed to American accounts.
  • Accounts both before and after the election that spread fake or conspiracy news formed a dense core of accounts that follow each other.

Twitter's global vice president of trust and safety Del Harvey: "This study was built using our public API and therefore does not take into account any of the actions we take to remove automated or spammy content and accounts from being viewed by people on Twitter. We do this proactively and at scale, every single day."

A silver lining: Fake news still receives significantly fewer links than mainstream media sources at 13% compared to 37% of the links received by regional newspapers.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

2 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 2 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."