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ProjectsIffy Quotient

Iffy Quotient


What is the Iffy Quotient?

A measure of how much attention “Iffy” news sites are getting. Less is better!

What can you do with it?

Here are a few examples of ways you can use the Iffy Quotient. You can do your own analyses and create graphics like these on our deep dive page.

Compare the performance of Facebook and Twitter

This is Facebook’s Iffy Quotient versus Twitter’s for 2022. While the two platforms were relatively close to each other throughout roughly the first half of the year, Twitter’s Iffy Quotient rose dramatically after June 2022 and was noticeably higher than Facebook’s at the end of the year.

Check the effect of a news event

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly the early days of lockdowns in the U.S. (March 2020), there was a relative reduction in sharing of content from Iffy sites on Facebook and Twitter. Presumably, this reflected a combination of changes in user behaviors (a “flight to quality” in news during initial periods of uncertainty) and actions taken by the platforms.

Check the effect of a change at Facebook and/or Twitter

Shortly after January 6, 2021, both Facebook and Twitter announced moderation actions, including suspensions of then-president Donald Trump. The overall impact of the platforms’ actions on engagement with Iffy news sites was quite different. On Twitter, the Iffy Quotient declined from 23.5% on January 5 to 8.7% on January 12. On Facebook it barely changed, being 16.5% on January 5 and 16.1% on January 12.

See popular content on Iffy and OK sites in a particular period

On April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. This news dominated the most popular stories shared on Facebook from OK sites, with eight of the ten most popular stories. On the other hand, specific coverage of the trial’s outcome did not make the top 10 stories from Iffy sites, which instead focused on Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and criticism of Democrats. However, among those stories was a topic that related to the Chauvin trial: negative reactions to comments made by Maxine Waters the day prior to the Chauvin verdict being reached, which comprised four of the ten most popular stories.

Compare past engagement levels of any two (or more) sites

In the month of April 2023, The Gateway Pundit and had the highest Twitter engagement of all Iffy sites. The Gateway Pundit had 25.6% of the Iffy engagement and 3.6% of all engagement for that period.
This graph compares engagement with and on Facebook over the three-month period of August 30, 2022 - November 30, 2022.

See which sites gained or lost audience

This shows the Iffy sites that had the largest change, positive or negative, in user engagement on Twitter between December 2022 and January 2023. The Gateway Pundit and were the biggest winners over that time period. Newsmax was the biggest loser.

Calculating the Iffy Quotient

We use the term “Iffy” to describe sites that frequently publish misinformation. It is a lighthearted way to acknowledge that our categorization of the sites is based on imprecise criteria and fallible human judgments. The Iffy Quotient’s data begins in early 2016 and continues to the present day. Here’s a summary of how we calculate the Iffy Quotient, for each platform and time period:
  1. Query NewsWhip for the 5,000 most engaged-with URLs each day, on Facebook and Twitter, where the URLs are sorted based on a user engagement metric tracked by NewsWhip (e.g., likes, comments, and replies for Facebook).
  2. Classify each URL as Iffy, OK, or not-rated, based on ratings of the publisher site from NewsGuard and Media Bias/Fact Check.
  3. Sum the engagement scores for Iffy URLs, and separately for OK URLs, across all days in the selected time period.
  4. Compute the Iffy Quotient as: Iffy / (Iffy + OK).
Our white paper describes the calculation of the Iffy Quotient in detail, discusses some of its potential limitations, and analyzes some of the trends.

Deep Dive

We have a page with a suite of related analytical tools that unlocks the Iffy Quotient’s power to illuminate comparisons over time and between platforms. You can use that page to create customizable graphics like all of those shown on this page, for any time period since the beginning of 2016.
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