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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.

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
32 mins ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.