The story receiving the most engagement on Facebook in the final three months of the election was about Pope Francis releasing a statement endorsing Republican nominee (now President-elect) Donald Trump.
It was fake.
According to an analysis by Buzzfeed, fake stories outperformed real news stories during the final three months of the election. Their analysis found 20 top-performing stories from "hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs" generated more than 8.7 million shares, reactions and comments. By comparison, the top 20 performing stories from 19 major news websites including The New York Times and Washington Post generated nearly 7.4 million shares, reactions and comments.
The analysis follows recent criticism of Facebook for how it fails to weed out fake news stories, with some critics going so far to claim Facebook is to blame for influencing the results.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it's "extremely unlikely" the social network had that kind of influence on the election, he did promise to offer users more tools to eliminate fake or hoax stories.
Meanwhile, one creator of fake news stories — Sam Horner — appears to show some remorse in an interview with The Washington Post for unknowingly helping Trump's campaign.
Asked why fake stories like his go viral so quickly: "Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it."