What Went Viral This Week

What Went Viral This Week

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 United States, as ranked by 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.)

The mainstream news cycle this week was dominated by the fallout from President Trump’s Covid-19 hospitalization, the collapse of coronavirus-relief stimulus talks and the debate between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.

But on social media, the death of the rocker Eddie Van Halen made more of a splash. So did articles about Mr. Pence’s opposition to abortion and a trolling campaign waged against the Proud Boys, the extremist right-wing group mentioned during last week’s presidential debate, by gay men who flooded the #ProudBoys hashtag with pro-gay posts.

Here is an annotated list of the 10 most-engaged news stories of the past seven days.

TMZ broke the news of Mr. Van Halen’s death, after what it described as a battle with lung cancer that went “massively downhill.”

Mr. Trump’s decision to end stimulus talks was the second-most-engaged story of the week. He has since backtracked from the position.

The controversy surrounding “Cuties,” a documentary that some critics — including believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory — accused of sexualizing underage girls, escalated this week after a grand jury in Tyler County, Texas, charged Netflix with promoting lewdness.

Mr. Pence’s comments about Roe v. Wade during the vice-presidential debate went viral after Franklin Graham, a conservative evangelical with an enormous Facebook following, shared them.

A social media movement to troll the Proud Boys with positive depictions of gay men got tons of attention this week, after it was shared by left-wing Facebook accounts including The Other 98% and the Democratic Coalition Against Trump.

The Times’s investigation of top Justice Department officials who pushed for a child separation immigration policy got more than a million interactions after it was shared by popular left-wing accounts including Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich and Bill Maher.