Fake news being peddled by right-wing posters on social media is a narrative many have been pushing but the University of Oxford has finally done the research and proved this hypothesis correct.
The study was for the university’s “computational propaganda project”, and it looked at the ‘junk news’ that was shared three months up until Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address in January to find out who was sharing it and why.
“On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share,” the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater: “extreme hard right pages – distinct from Republican pages – share more junk news than all the other audiences put together.”
The research involved monitoring a core group of around 13,500 politically-active US Twitter users, and a separate group of 48,000 public Facebook pages, to find the content they were sharing.
The users were grouped based on the political affiliations of the content they were sharing, some identified cohorts included: ” Conservative Media”, “Trump Supporters” (a distinct group from Republican Part”) and Resistance”; on Facebook, those audience groups included “Hard Conservative”, “Women’s Rights” and “Military/Guns”.
The findings reveal the extent of polarisation in US politics.“The two main political parties, Democrats and Republicans, prefer different sources of political news, with limited overlap,” the researchers write.
There was a clear skew in the people who shared the 91 sites the researchers had labeled ‘junk news’ (as a result of those publications breaching at least three of five quality standards including “professionalism”, “bias” and “credibility”).“The Trump Support group consumes the highest volume of junk news sources on Twitter, and spreads more junk news sources, than all the other groups put together. This pattern is repeated on Facebook, where the Hard Conservatives group consumed the highest proportion of junk news.”
However, the study did not find a substantial amount of Russian media being shared “The political conversations on social media exclude a Russian audience group,” the researchers concluded.