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Data: NewsGuard; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Unreliable news websites significantly increased their share of engagement among the top performing news sources on social media this year, according to a new analysis from NewsGuard provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Quality filters from Big Tech platforms didn’t stop inflammatory headlines from gaining lots of traction, especially from fringe-right sources.

By the numbers: In 2020, nearly one-fifth (17%) of engagement among the top 100 news sources on social media came from sources that NewsGuard deems generally unreliable, compared to about 8% in 2019.

  • NewsGuard found that its top rated "unreliable" site, The Daily Wire, saw 2.5 times as many interactions in 2020 as 2019.
  • Bongino.com increased engagement by more than 1700% this year.

How it works: NewsGuard uses trained journalists to rate thousands of news and information websites. It uses a long list of criteria, like whether the news site discloses its funding or repeatedly publishes content deemed false by fact-checkers, to determine whether sites are credible or unreliable.

The big picture: Engagement from the top 100 U.S. news sources on social media nearly doubled from the first eleven months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2020, the study found.

  • That's not surprising given the major events swallowing the news cycle this year, including the election, COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests.
  • But the report, which was created using data from social intelligence company NewsWhip, shows that low-quality news sources tend to flourish amid lots of breaking news cycles, where a lack of certainty can be exploited.

Flashback: Earlier this year, an investigation from NewsGuard found that the vast majority of Facebook groups that were "super-spreaders" of election-related misinformation were affiliated with right-wing movements, including pages like Gateway Pundit, Viral Patriot and MAGA Revolution.

Go deeper

App rush: Talent over trash

Data: Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Amid the sea of pollution on social media, another class of apps is soaring in popularity: The creators are paid, putting a premium on talent instead of just noise.

The big picture: Creator-economy platforms like Patreon, Substack and OnlyFans are built around content makers who are paid. It's a contrast to platforms like Facebook that are mostly powered by everyday users’ unpaid posts and interactions.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi appoints GOP Rep. Kinzinger to Jan. 6 committee

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Sunday that she has appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to serve on the House select committee investigating the Jan 6. Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Pelosi's announcement comes after she rejected two of the five Republican appointments offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

USCP chief: Officers testifying before Jan. 6 committee "need to be heard"

Thomas Manger, the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

New Capitol Police chief Tom Manger said officers testifying before the Jan. 6 select committee this week "need to be heard."

Driving the news: The select committee's first hearing is set to take place on Tuesday and will feature testimony from law enforcement officers who were subject to some of the worst of violence during the insurrection.