Right-wing voices are dominating Facebook after the first presidential debate

Nearly every top post is from a pro-Trump commentator, a major shift even from 2016.

Conservative media outlets heavily used Facebook to connect with voters in 2016, helping propel Donald Trump to the presidency. Since then, the right’s command of the platform has only intensified.

Right-wing voices made up nine of the 10 top-performing posts on Facebook since the presidential debate Tuesday. Many Americans who primarily get news from Facebook are living in a media ecosystem where the winner of the debate is clear: President Trump crushed Joe Biden.

Top-performing link posts on Facebook, by interactions

These posts — by U.S. pages and with links — received the most shares, comments and reactions in the 12 hours since the first presidential debate.

2016

2020

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Conservatives have complained that social media companies are unfairly censoring their posts, but on Facebook their posts regularly outperform those of the competition. According to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool, 20 of the top 30 posts with the most interactions, including nine of the top 10, came from right-leaning accounts, including posts from firebrand Ben Shapiro, Trump’s account and Dan Bongino, a Trump acolyte.

Only eight of the top 30 were from conservatives in 2016.

[How conservatives learned to wield power inside Facebook]

In 2018, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apologized, pledging that the company would regulate false content better.

But on the morning of the debate, a conspiracy theory swirled on Facebook: Biden was going to be fed answers through an earpiece. One top post about the earpiece by a Trump fan page was removed from Facebook after it gained more than 16,000 interactions. As the debate began, two other posts promoting the false earpiece story were the fourth- and eighth-most-interacted-with posts on the site. These remain live on Facebook.

About this story

Facebook interaction data is from CrowdTangle, which tracks public posts by public pages.

Kevin Schaul is a senior graphics editor for The Washington Post. He covers national politics and public policy using data and visuals.
Kevin Uhrmacher is a graphics editor for politics covering elections and public policy at The Washington Post.