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  • Coverage: US Midterm Elections Memo

    22 November 2018

    Illustration of US man voting

    The team’s research on the 2018 US midterm elections has been covered in the following:

    The Washington Post: The Cybersecurity 202: There is more phony political news on social media now than in 2016, report says

    There’s even more phony or misleading political news circulating on social media than there was in 2016, according to a new report that casts doubt on tech companies’ attempts to crack down on disinformation ahead of the midterms.

    The University of Oxford report also found that social media users were more apt to share “junk news” than what researchers considered “professional content,” which includes news from established media outlets and information from the government, academics or political candidates. What’s more, the report concluded that the kind of junk news once relatively contained to people on the far right is now being readily shared by mainstream political conservatives.

    Two years after revelations that Russia orchestrated a wide-ranging campaign to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump through hacking and fake news, the report highlights the complexity of reining in disinformation online. With less than a week remaining before the midterms, the research suggests the efforts that Facebook, Twitter and other companies have taken to suppress disinformation may be too little, too late. Lawmakers have made it clear that if technology companies are unable to police their platforms and address the spread of false or phony information that could influence the democratic process, they may pursue regulation.

    The study, released at midnight Thursday, analyzed 2.5 million posts on Twitter and nearly 7,000 Facebook pages over several weeks in September and October. Researchers drew their sample by searching posts tagged with relevant political and election hashtags, and the handles of political parties.

    Overall, it found the proportion of junk news circulating over Twitter increased by 5 percentage points since the 2016 presidential election — and made up about 25 percent of all URLs the researchers analyzed. “In comparison, links to professionally produced news content accounted for nearly 19% of shares,” the report found.

    Junk news “is going to be part of our media system until social media platforms figure out what to do or are guided on what to do from public policy oversight,” said Philip Howard, the Oxford professor who led the study.

    The Financial Times: ‘Junk news’ still rising, study finds, as US midterms near

    LONDON – The spread of “junk news” on Twitter and Facebook has increased since the 2016 election, despite the companies’ investments in people and technology to try to control disinformation that could influence next week’s US midterm elections.

    A new report from the Oxford Internet Institute found that the proportion of “junk news” about politics — what the researchers call deceptive, extremist and conspiratorial content — increased on Twitter by five percentage points since Donald Trump was elected president.

    Twitter users posting about politics shared more “junk news” than professional news outlets, the study showed, and about 25 per cent of all links shared on Twitter now lead to sites the researchers identified as junk, up from 20 per cent two years ago.

    The New York Times: Twitter Says It Is Ready for the Midterms, but Rogue Accounts Aren’t Letting Up

    Ahead of the midterm elections on Tuesday, “we are more prepared than we have ever been,” said Del Harvey, Twitter’s head of trust and safety.

    Yet over the last few months, Twitter has also grappled with a profusion of accounts masquerading as state Republican officials, and accounts pushing memes that falsely claimed immigration officials would be patrolling polling stations. Last week, researchers at Oxford University said Twitter now had 5 percent more false content than it did during the 2016 American presidential election.

    “Never has it actually reached this threshold that we’ve seen now,” said Lisa-Maria Neudert, one the Oxford researchers.

    Coda: More ‘Junk News’ Than Ever, Study Finds

    The spread of “junk news” on Twitter and Facebook has grown significantly since the 2016 U.S. election, the Financial Times reports, despite the companies’ efforts to control disinformation that could influence next week’s midterms.

    A new report from the Oxford Internet Institute found that the proportion of “junk news” about politics — what the researchers call deceptive, extremist and conspiratorial content — has increased by five percent since Donald Trump was elected president.

    At least 25 percent of all links shared on Twitter now lead to sites the researchers identified as junk, up from 20 per cent two years ago — though researchers did not measure how many people these posts had reached.

    The study said a large number of the Twitter accounts linked to the spread of misinformation during the 2016 US elections were still actively spreading junk news. On Facebook, the audience for junk news had spread beyond supporters of President Trump and the far-right to include mainstream conservative readers, the study found.

    There was also now a small but increasing population on the far-left consuming junk news on Facebook, for example, spreading misinformation about Trump administration policies towards the LGBTQ community.

    Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, said more of the problematic content appeared to originate from the US, rather than the disinformation campaigns conducted by Russia and other foreign powers. “So much of this junk news is actually homegrown, it is not from the crazy Venezuelan government, it is not coming from Iran, it is from the US: massive networks of junk news, multiple sites, sharing the same kind of content: radical, extremist, sensationalist,” he said.

    Sao Paulo – A quantidade de fake news e material de ódio distribuída nas redes sociais sobre assuntos políticos está crescendo nos EUA e já é maior hoje do que era em 2016 durante a eleição de Donald Trump, mostra um estudo da Universidade de Oxford.

    O levantamento, divulgado na quinta (1º), analisou o material compartilhado no último mês no Twitter e no Facebook relacionado à eleição americana, que ocorre na próxima terça-feira (6),quando os democratas tentarão tirar dos republicanos o controle da Câmara e do Senado.

    Os pesquisadores concluíram que os esforços prometidos pelas duas empresas para combater a disseminação desse tipo de material nas redes não surtiu o efeito esperado.”

    Assim, o número de notícias falsas ou não confiáveis distribuídos no atual ciclo eleitoral americano já superou o de 2016, quando o assunto ganhou destaque.

    “As plataformas tomaram medidas, mas enquanto pessoas continuarem a divulgar desinformação, o problema vai continuar”, disse Nahema Marchal, doutoranda do Instituto de Internet de Oxford e uma das autoras do estudo.

    El Pais: Las noticias basura en Estados Unidos se comparten aún más que en 2016

    Los titulares son ciertamente llamativos: “El consejero especial y exdirector del FBI Robert Mueller acusado de violación por ‘testigo muy creíble”; “Nuevo vídeo demuestra que personal de la campaña de Beto O’Rourke ayuda ilegalmente a la caravana” o “Naciones Unidas: Trump debe permitir que la caravana de inmigrantes entre en Estados Unidos”.

    Todas son noticias basura, compartidas por miles de personas en Facebook. Según un nuevo estudio del Oxford Internet Institute (OII), estos contenidos se comparten en esta campaña electoral más que en 2016 y ya supera al interés por los medios tradicionales. Entonces eran más conocidas como fake news, pero los investigadores creen que la nueva denominación es más precisa: “Preferimos el término noticias basura porque fake news ha sido muy politizado y se usa retóricamente a menudo para desacreditar a los medios tradicionales”, dice Nahema Marchal, investigadora del OII.

    Los medios que publicaron esas noticias son Breitbart, Hannity y Gateway Pundit. Los tres forman parte de una lista de 113 plataformas que el estudio ha aislado porque “contienen formas variadas de propaganda e información hiperpartidista e ideológicamente extrema”. El artículo ha analizado 2,5 millones de tuits y 6.986 páginas de Facebook durante el pasado mes de octubre. “La proporción de fuentes de noticias basura que circula por Twitter ha crecido cinco puntos desde 2016, lo que significa un 25% de todas las URL capturadas durante el estudio”, escriben los autores. Los links compartidos de medios tradicionales sumó solo el 19% del total.

    Zeit Online: So manipulierbar sind wir gar nicht

    Des Weiteren waren Männer, weiße Menschen und Wähler in den sogenannten Swing States eher Lügen ausgesetzt, was die Ergebnisse anderer Studien (The Web Conference: Bhatt et al., 2018 und Howard et al., 2017) bestätigt.

    Ob jemand diese falschen Nachrichten wiederum selbst twitterte, hing vor allem von der politischen Einstellung ab: Weniger als fünf Prozent der Menschen links oder in der Mitte des politischen Spektrums verbreiteten Fake-News weiter. Bei den rechts oder extrem rechts eingestellten Personen waren es elf Prozent beziehungsweise 21 Prozent.

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