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Disinformation, Fake News and Influence Campaigns on Twitter

Knight Foundation: “How did misinformation spread during the 2016 presidential election and has anything changed since? A new study of more than 10 million tweets from 700,000 Twitter accounts that linked to more than 600 misinformation and conspiracy news outlets answers this question. The report reveals a concentrated “fake news” ecosystem, linking more than 6.6 million tweets to fake news and conspiracy news publishers in the month before the 2016 election. The problem persisted in the aftermath of the election with 4 million tweets to fake and conspiracy news publishers found from mid-March to mid-April 2017. A large majority of these accounts are still active today. The study, one of the largest to date on this topic, is supported by Knight Foundation and produced by Matthew Hindman of The George Washington University in collaboration with Vlad Barash of the network analysis firm Graphika. Knight commissioned the study to improve understanding of how misinformation spreads online.

Here are eight findings that stood out to us: There was a concentrated “fake news” ecosystem highly active both during and after the 2016 election; “Fake news” and disinformation continue to reach millions; Just a few fake and conspiracy news sites accounted for most of the fake news that spread on Twitter: Most of the accounts spreading fake or conspiracy news included in the report show evidence of automated posting; Fake news still receives significantly fewer links than mainstream media sources; Accounts that spread fake news are densely connected; A substantial amount of misinformation was spread by both Republican- and Democratic-identified accounts; The coordinated spread of misinformation by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) trolls is evident — but other accounts were likely more important in spreading fake news.

  • This report is part of Knight Foundation’s Trust, Media and Democracy initiative, which aims to strengthen the role of strong, trusted journalism as essential to a healthy democracy. In September 2017, Knight Foundation announced $2.5 million in support to launch the initiative…”

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