Does the NFL Have a Fake News Problem Online?

How are you? Fake NFL stories continue to find haven on Facebook and Twitter, from fake sacking, injuries and draft releases, but which teams were targeted the most by trolls in 2022?

New research commissioned by privacy and security company ExpressVPN analysed fake news spread on social media to reveal the sports stars and teams in the NFL who have fallen victim to trolls online.

An article in 2017 reported, “An incorrect article, manufactured after President Trump spent a weekend demanding the NFL fire athletes who refused to stand for the national anthem, said the team “may be kicked out of the NFL” for the behaviour” this was a complete fabrication. But this is only one example of how NFL teams and players have been targeted in recent years.

It won’t come as a surprise to many that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ranked top of the NFL for fake news, having over 22.5 million impressions online. This doesn’t even compare to their star QB Tom Brady who had over 72 million.

ExpressVPN found online social platforms were exploiting buzz around celebrity lifestyles to drive fake news stories online.

American football star Tom Brady tops the list of celebrities most associated with fake news online, according to new research commissioned by privacy and security company ExpressVPN.

Brady announced and rescinded his retirement from American Football earlier this year and was named in over 72.4 million posts mentioning fake news. Brady, earlier this year, was also under fire on social media – when social media trolls reported that the legendary QB was going to make a move to the Miami Dolphins – later reported by head coach: “fake news”.

Lebron James rolled in at number two on the list, with 14.7 million posts mentioning him in association with fake news on social media. One of the ‘GOAT’s of the NBA”, Michael Jordan, has been associated with 523,524 posts on social media. It’s not surprising to come across fake news about the sporting legend – in 2015, Jordan was reported dead following a heart attack, and this wasn’t the first or last time the legend made it on trolls’ social media accounts.

One of 2022’s highest-paid actors, and former WWE wrestler, Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson, was the sports star with the lowest reach of fake news posts – following whispers of a return to WWE earlier this year. The Rock was referenced in just 2,545 posts mentioning fake news online in 2022.

The research looked at how often sports stars’ names were posted (on social media, forums, and comments) alongside the phrase ‘fake news’ between January and October 2022, ranking the sports stars based on the reach of those posts.

Tips on staying smart about fake news online

Love or loathe them, following the lives of celebrities, has become a daily ritual for millions, with social media making it easier than ever to stay up-to-date. But as we have all learned, not everything you read online is true.

Fake news has proliferated in recent years concerning current events or celebrity gossip. And, of course, in some cases, it might very well be the celebrity sharing fake news or just being accused of doing so.

When browsing online, you must be sceptical of the news you read. ExpressVPN has shared three tips about getting information online:

  • Don’t get your information exclusively from social media – When staying up-to-date with the daily news, don’t solely rely on social media. Social media is a hotbed of fake news, with some profiles set up to share inaccurate information. It’s always worth checking the news you read using different sources. How different established news sites cover the same story will give you a more well-rounded perspective on the legitimacy of that information.
  • Look for red flags in a post – Is the article current? Even if it was once accurate for an older article, the facts might have changed since its publication. Did the data or interviews come from biased sources? Is the writer a reputable specialist on a topic, and do they have an agenda? Check them out with a quick Google search.
  • Always check before you share – Before you spread the news on your social profiles, always pause and consider its accuracy.