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Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute aggregator tool tracks “junk” political views being shared on Facebook

TechCrunch: “Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute (OII), which has just launched an aggregator tool which tracks what it terms “junk” political views being shared on Facebook — doing so in near real-time and offering various ways to visualize and explore the junk heap. What’s “junk news” in this context? The OII says this type of political content can include “ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan, or conspiratorial news and information, as well as various forms of propaganda”. This sort of stuff might elsewhere get badged ‘fake news’, although that label is problematical — and has itself been hijacked by known muck spreaders. (So ‘online disinformation’ tends to be the label of choice in academic and policy circles, these days.) The OII is here using its own political propaganda content categorization — i.e. this term “junk news” — which is based on what it describes as “a grounded typology” derived through analyzing a large amount of political communications shared by US social media users.

Specifically it’s based on an analysis of more than 2.5 million tweets sent in the period September 21-30, 2018 — applying what the Institute dubs “rigorous coding and content analysis techniques to define the new phenomenon”. This involved labelling the source websites of shared links based on “a grounded typology that has been tested over several elections around the world in 2016-2018”, with a content source getting coded as a purveyor of junk news if it failed on 3 out of 5 of criteria of the typology…

  • The Visual Junk News Aggregator does what it says on the tin, aggregating popular junk news posts into a bipartisan thumbnail wall of over-inflated (or just out and out) BS. Complete with a trigger warning for the risk of graphic images and language. Mousing over the thumbnails brings up any title and description that’s been scraped for the post in question, plus a date stamp and full Facebook reaction data.
  • Another tool — the Top 10 Junk News Aggregator — shows the most engaged with English language junk news stories posted to Facebook in the last 24 hours, in the context of the 2018 US midterm elections. (With engagement being based on total Facebook reactions per second of the post’s life.)..”

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