Fake and conspiracy news outlets dominated during 2016 election

by | Dec 5, 2018 | Blog, What We're Reading

Knight research finds 6.6 million tweets linked to fake and conspiracy news publishers in the month before the 2016 election.

Disinformation, ‘Fake News’ and Influence Campaigns on Twitter
Knight Foundation
Oct. 4, 2018

A Knight Foundation study during and after the 2016 election observed how fake news and conspiracy theories on Twitter have evolved since November 2016. The study analyzed more than 10 million tweets linked to 600-plus fake news outlets. Since the election, not much has changed: Nearly all of the top fake news sites during the month before the election — linked to millions of tweets — were still near the top six months later.

Researchers found most of the accounts spreading fake news or conspiracy theories were bots — and all very densely connected. Before the election, the majority of fake news came from accounts associated with Republicans that were pro-Trump. After the election, left-leaning fake news decreased much more than right-leaning fake news, the Knight Foundation found. Twitter claimed it has cracked down on automated accounts, but more than 80 percent of spam accounts studied were still active as of spring 2018.

Key Numbers:

  • Sixty-five percent of fake and conspiracy news links during the time of the election were only associated with the ten largest sites.
  • The top 50 fake news sites received almost 90 percent of links during the election and almost 90 percent in the 30-day period five months later.
  • Researchers noted 4 million tweets linking to these fake/conspiracy news sites in a 30-day period in spring 2018.

Study Details:

  • The study used tools and methods from social media intelligence firm Graphika to study tweets from 700,000 Twitter accounts.
  • This study found much more fake news activity than other recent studies, mostly because it examines a larger body of fake and conspiracy news sites, researchers said.