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  • Coverage: Swedish Election Memo

    7 September 2018

    Social media logos over Swedish flag

    The team’s research on the Swedish Election has been covered in the following:

    Reuters Newswire: Exclusive: Right-wing sites swamp Sweden with ‘junk news’ in tight election race

    LONDON/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – One in three news articles shared online about the upcoming Swedish election come from websites publishing deliberately misleading information, most with a right-wing focus on immigration and Islam, Oxford University researchers say.

    Their study, published on Thursday, points to widespread online disinformation in the final stages of a tightly-contested campaign which could mark a lurch to the right in one of Europe’s most prominent liberal democracies.

    The authors, from the Oxford Internet Institute, labeled certain websites “junk news”, based on a range of detailed criteria. Reuters found the three most popular sites they identified have employed former members of the Sweden Democrats party; one has a former MP listed among its staff.

    It was not clear whether the sharing of “junk news” had affected voting intentions in Sweden, but the study helps show the impact platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have on elections, and how domestic or foreign groups can use them to exacerbate sensitive social and political issues.

    Bloomberg: Twitter’s Trolls Are Coming for Sweden’s Election

    Twitter bots are proliferating ahead of Sweden’s election next month — and they are 40 percent more likely to support the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats than human users.

    That’s the finding of the country’s Defense Research Agency, which says the social media platform has moved to suspend many of these malicious accounts.

    Democracies across the world need to prepare for this threat: Radical parties, with or without external help, are using and perfecting this form of digital propaganda — because it appears to work so well.

    It’s spreading, too. Sweden didn’t figure in this year’s list of 48 countries where Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Research Project found evidence of social-media manipulation. In 2017, there were only 28 such countries.

    Reuters India: Disinformation online: Spotting ‘junk news’ in Sweden

    LONDON/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – One in three news articles shared on social media about Sweden’s upcoming election are from “junk news” websites, a study has found, pointing to widespread online disinformation in the final stages of a tightly-contested campaign.

    The Oxford Internet Institute’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which is funded by the European Research Council, analysed 275,000 tweets about the Swedish election from a 10-day period in August, marking those it identified as “junk news.”

    The Oxford Internet Institute defines “junk news” sources as outlets which “deliberately publish misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news.”

    To be classified as a “junk news” source in the study, outlets had to meet at least three of the following five criteria:

    – Professionalism: These outlets do not employ standards and best practices of professional journalism. They refrain from providing clear information about real authors, editors, publishers and owners. They lack transparency and accountability, and do not publish corrections on debunked information.

    – Style: These outlets use emotionally driven language with emotive expressions, hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, misleading headlines, excessive capitalization, unsafe generalisations and logical fallacies, moving images, and lots of pictures and mobilising memes.

    – Credibility: These outlets rely on false information and conspiracy theories, which they often employ strategically. They report without consulting multiple sources and do not fact-check. Sources are often untrustworthy and standards of production lack reliability.

    – Bias: Reporting in these outlets is highly biased, ideologically skewed or hyper-partisan, and news reporting frequently features strongly opinionated commentary.

    – Counterfeit: These sources mimic established news reporting. They counterfeit fonts, branding and stylistic content strategies. Commentary and junk content is stylistically disguised as news, with references to news agencies and credible sources, and headlines written in a news tone with date, time and location stamps.

    One in three news articles shared on Twitter about Sweden’s upcoming election is from “junk news” websites that publish deliberately misleading information, according to a study published Thursday by the Oxford Internet Institute.

    Researchers noted that they had only seen the ratio of junk news to professionally-produced news observed in Sweden during the contentious 2016 US presidential election.

    The level of “junk news” shared in Sweden was significantly higher than in any European election they had studied, including two votes in Germany and the UK’s Brexit referendum.

    “It was honestly not what we had expected to see in Sweden, which we think of as a highly educated and also a highly digitally literate country,” co-author Lisa-Maria Neudert told Euronews.

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