The FT reports on a study by the Oxford Internet Institute that found a quarter of web content shared on Twitter by users in Michigan in the final days of the presidential election was fake news. Professional news stories received the same percentage of shares on Twitter.
Fake news of course doesn’t serve the public good, but then neither does biased professional news passed off as objective. Is there even a difference between the two?
The FT writes:
Nearly a quarter of web content shared on Twitter by users in the battleground state of Michigan during the final days of last year’s US election campaign was so-called fake news, according to a University of Oxford study.
Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) also determined that these users shared approximately as many fake news items as “professional news” over the same period.
The report, published on Monday, concludes that links to fake news stories accounted for 23 per cent of the links tweeted by a sample of 140,000 Michigan-based users during the ten days up to November 11 last year.
The proliferation of fake news, particularly via social media, has been blamed for distorting public perceptions and political debate in several western countries, while some political leaders have seized upon the term to selectively dismiss credible but critical news coverage.
OII researchers prefer the term ‘junk news’, defining it as “various forms of propaganda and ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan or conspiratorial political news and information”.
Professional news, defined as political news and information by outlets that display the qualities of professional journalism, constituted another 23 per cent of the links tweeted by the Michigan group, suggesting that this content was no more likely to be shared than fake news.
Read more here.