What Went Viral This Week

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Here at Daily Distortions, we try to debunk false and misleading information that has gone viral. We also want to give you a sense of how popular that misinformation is, in the overall context of what is being discussed on social media. Each Friday, we will feature a list of the 10 most-engaged stories of the week.

In the last week, news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, and the political fallout from the opening of her Supreme Court seat, dominated the mainstream news. But on social media, plenty of other stories went viral, including some false and misleading stories.

Here is an annotated list of the 10 most-engaged news stories of the past seven days, according to NewsWhip, a firm that compiles social media performance data. (NewsWhip tracks the number of reactions, shares and comments each story receives on Facebook, along with shares on Pinterest and by a group of influential users on Twitter.)

1. NPR: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87 (10,689,157 interactions)

NPR’s obituary for Justice Ginsburg, “the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon,” led the week’s viral stories.

2. CNN: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dead at 87 (3,665,720 interactions)

3. The Babylon Bee: NBA Players Wear Special Lace Collars To Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1,910,507 interactions)

This story from a right-wing satire site, complete with a photoshopped picture of LeBron James wearing a lace doily around his neck, was not true, but some who shared it seemed to miss the joke. (“This is so touching,” one Twitter user commented.)

4. MoveOn.org: Do not fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat until after the 2021 inauguration (1,508,381 interactions)

A petition on the liberal site MoveOn.org urged senators not to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat until January.

5. Legal Insurrection: Woman Driver Crashes Car While Flipping the Bird at Trump Supporters (1,326,475 interactions)

A right-wing site’s post about a video that it claimed showed a woman losing control of her car while making an obscene gesture to Trump supporters was shared gleefully by many conservatives.

6. The Babylon Bee: Fisher-Price Releases ‘My First Peaceful Protest’ Playset With House You Can Actually Burn Down (1,231,167 interactions)

Another post from the right-wing satire site, taking a jab at left-wing protesters.

7. Forbes: Trump Threatens To Issue Executive Order Preventing Biden From Being Elected President (1,217,425 interactions)

This story, from Forbes, took seriously President Trump’s comment about stopping Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election via an executive order. (Whether or not Mr. Trump was joking is up for interpretation.)

8. NBC News: More than 200 retired generals, admirals endorse Biden (1,182,029 interactions)

9. NTD: 262 Arrested, 5 Missing Children Found in Gang Sweep in Oklahoma City (1,179,470 interactions)

This story posted by the NTD television network, which is affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual group, was shared by many supporters of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory movement. Stories about child trafficking often go viral in QAnon groups, which use them as evidence for their false belief that Mr. Trump is breaking up a global cabal of Satanist pedophiles.

10. The New York Times: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87 (1,135,419 interactions)

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