The fake news more relayed on Twitter after the purchase of the platform by Elon Musk

Massive dismissals, leaks from advertisers, account authentication problems and now a proliferation of false information… The arrival of Elon Musk at the head of Twitter continues to shake the platform and its millions of users. In the week following the billionaire’s acquisition of the social network, the platform’s most popular and least trusted accounts saw a 57.04% increase in engagement they generate, in the form likes and retweets, according to a survey conducted by NewsGuard*, a specialized site that rates news sources according to their reliability.

Elon Musk’s public statements about possible changes to Twitter’s policies appear to have spurred the activity of malicious actors, increasing the popularity of misinformation on the platform. “Even without changes to the platform’s practices or policies in terms of moderation, the simple change of ownership, the high profile of this event, and Elon Musk’s speculation about changes to the platform coincided with a considerable increase in the popularity of fake news,” says Newsguard.

“If I don’t get censored for this, I will know that the situation has really changed”

In the week following the acquisition, from October 27 to November 3, 2022, NewsGuard found that tweets from the 25 most-followed Twitter accounts garnered 3,115,664 likes and retweets. Two weeks prior to the acquisition, from October 13-20, 2022, these same accounts had garnered 1,983,953 likes and retweets (likes and retweets are used to gauge overall tweet engagement ). This represents a cumulative increase of 57.04%.

For example, interactions with the Twitter account of – the site of health-related infox peddler Joseph Mercola – increased from 932 to 19,259, an increase in their engagement of 1966.42%. The second most significant increase in engagement on Twitter is, a site founded by Dr. Christiane Northrup, a self-proclaimed wellness expert. The site’s engagement rate increased by 1017.46%, going from 63 interactions to 704. “If I don’t get censored for this, I will know that the situation has really changed”, tweeted Christiane Northrup on October 28, with a drawing showing Elon Musk and a person crying.

Twitter accounts linked to sources NewsGuard considers highly reliable did not experience the same uptick in engagement over the two weeks, again suggesting that this uptick in engagement was not widespread, and only concerns accounts distributing infox.

* In November 2022, three NewsGuard analysts analyzed NewsWhip data available on the 50 most-followed Twitter accounts linked to sites that do not meet NewsGuard’s criteria for not regularly posting fake content. (NewsGuard relies on a team of journalists to analyze and rate news and information sites using nine criteria).

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