Social media has become an important source of news and information for Americans. And it’s where fake news is running rampant. According to a new study conducted by the University of Oxford, it concluded that “junk political news and information was concentrated among Trump’s supports,” which was “mapped from public Twitter and Facebook data.”
The study used a “seed of known propaganda websites across the political spectrum” based on typology. These sources used consistently published political news and information that was extreme, sensational, conspiratorial, masked commentary, and fake in nature.
After examining these sources in the three months before Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address, the study found that the “distribution of such content is unevenly spread across the ideological spectrum.”
The study demonstrated:
- On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters shares the widest range of known junk news sources and circulates more junk news that all the other groups put together.
- On Facebook, extreme hard right pages – distinct from Republican pages – share the widest range of known junk news sources and circulate more junk news than all the other audiences put together.
- On average, the audiences for junk news on Twitter share a wider range of known junk news sources than audiences on Facebook’s public pages.
“Social media algorithms can be purposefully used to distribute polarizing political content and misinformation,” the authors of the study wrote.
The “social networks mapped from public Twitter and Facebook data” showed that junk political news and information was concentrated among Trump’s supporters. On Twitter, the Trump Support Group share 95 percent of the junk news sites on the list and created 55 percent of the traffic of junk news. And on Facebook, the Hard Conservative Group shared 91 percent of the junk news and drove 58 percent of the junk news traffic.
While the study looked at the main political parties’ use of social media as news sources, it concluded that Democrats and Republicans get their news from different sources with very little overlap – Democrats get their news from mainstream media outlets, while Republicans get it from Conservative Media Groups.
In conclusion, as more Americans use social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook as news sources, they aren’t only sharing professional news, but also “extremist, sensationalist, conspiratorial, masked commentary, fake news and other forms of junk news.”