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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

Social media's long march toward banning Trump

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Big Tech companies took swift action to limit President Trump's online reach following Wednesday's riot at the Capitol. Facebook announced his account would be shut down "indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks" and Twitter promised to ban him if he breaks its rules one more time.

Yes, but: The companies had been preparing for this moment for a while.

23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's latest executive order: Buy American

President Joe R. Biden speaks about the economy before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Friday, Jan 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services.

Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.