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The top fake news stories of 2016 were about the Pledge, poop, and the Pope

The top fake news stories of 2016 were about the Pledge, poop, and the Pope


According to a BuzzFeed News analysis

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Pope Francis Appoints New Cardinals
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A BuzzFeed News analysis has identified the 50 fake news stories that attracted the most engagement on Facebook this year. Together they totaled 21.5 million likes, comments, and shares. Of these stories, 23 were about US politics, two were about women using their vaginas as murder weapons, and one was about a clown doll that actually was a person the whole time.

BuzzFeed News defined “fake news” as news that was verifiably “100 percent false” and drawn from a list of 96 websites purposely created to disseminate false information.

You can read the full list of stories, but here are the top five:

  • "Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide"
  • "Woman arrested for defecating on boss’ desk after winning the lottery"
  • "Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement"
  • "Trump Offering Free One-Way Tickets to Africa & Mexico for Those Who Wanna Leave America"
  • "Cinnamon Roll Can Explodes Inside Man’s Butt During Shoplifting Incident"

Notably, the domain name for the top fake news story of the year is “” In a November interview with The Verge, Professor Nicole A. Cooke of the University of Illinois’ School of Information Sciences cited the slight modification of familiar domains as a particularly dangerous and common tactic for fake news sites. They make the source look reputable at first glance. The man who operates told The Washington Post that he believes his websites were a key factor in the election of Donald Trump.

And, at random, some other highlights from the list:

  • "Florida man dies in meth-lab explosion after lighting farts on fire" 
  • "President Obama Confirms He Will Refuse To Leave Office If Trump Is Elected"
  • Van Full Of Illegals Shows Up To Vote Clinton At SIX Polling Places, Still Think Voter Fraud Is A Myth?
  • "Man shoots off his own penis taking selfies with gun" 
  • “Girl Infects 586 Men With HIV On Purpose, Plans On Infecting 2,000 More Before 2017 - TRENDING”

You might want to hope that people shared these articles as a joke. I want to hope that. But we can’t: the analysis points to a recent BuzzFeed and Ipsos Public Affairs poll which found that 75 percent of Americans (84 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of Democrats) were easily tricked by fake headlines. What a fantastic year for fact-checking and rational thought and Mark Zuckerberg’s self-awareness.