Real News Outlets Lead in Info War on Twitter, Pew Finds

(CN) – Despite public skepticism about the news media and the proliferation of fake news sources, legitimate outlets dominate the amount of content shared on Twitter, according to a new study released Monday.

The Pew Research Center studied the topic of immigration on the social media network between January and February 2017, analyzing 9.7 million tweets about the subject. Researchers found evidence that suggests news organizations are winning the information war against advocacy groups and fake news sites with political motivations.

Of the 1,030 most linked-to sites in the immigration-related tweets, 42 percent were made up of legacy and digital-native news outlets who do original reporting. Blogs, advocacy groups and “other information providers” only made up 29 percent. The evidence suggests that despite public distrust of the media, Americans still heavily rely on news organizations for their information.

“This was a time period with a lot happening on the immigration issue: new restrictions via executive order, the airport protests, and various court cases,” said Galen Stocking, Pew researcher, in a written statement. “During this time, the content shared was predominantly from news organizations – not commentary or other kinds of sites.”

The researchers discovered that of all immigration-related tweets, news outlets appeared in 75 percent of them. Among those tweets, 28 percent were linked to legacy news organizations and 14 percent to digital-native outlets. The New York Times and The Hill both tied for first place with 7 percent each, followed by CNN (4 percent), The Washington Post (4 percent) and Fox News (3 percent).

While the study did not examine the spread of fake news sites, it found little evidence that such outlets had a major influence on the national discussion about immigration.

Only 2 percent of sites included in the study were deemed fake news sites, according to external lists created by, Politifact and BuzzFeed. The majority of such sites were made up of blogs or commentary sites.

The researchers analyzed the tweets between Jan. 20 to Feb. 20, 2017, during which President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry into the United States by citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations.


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