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posted by martyb on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-a-right-wing-thing dept.

Fake News Sharing in US is a Right-Wing Thing, Says Study

A study by researchers at Oxford University concluded that sharing fake and junk news is much more prevalent amongst Trump supporters and other people with hard right-wing tendencies.

From the Guardian:

The study, from the university's "computational propaganda project", looked at the most significant sources of "junk news" shared in the three months leading up to Donald Trump's first State of the Union address this January, and tried to find out who was sharing them and why.

"On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," the researchers concluded. On Facebook, the skew was even greater. There, "extreme hard right pages – distinct from Republican pages – share more junk news than all the other audiences put together.

Polarization, Partisanship and Junk News Consumption over Social Media in the US

What kinds of social media users read junk news? We examine the distribution of the most significant sources of junk news in the three months before President Donald Trump's first State of the Union Address. Drawing on a list of sources that consistently publish political news and information that is extremist, sensationalist, conspiratorial, masked commentary, fake news and other forms of junk news, we find that the distribution of such content is unevenly spread across the ideological spectrum. We demonstrate that (1) on Twitter, a network of Trump supporters shares the widest range of known junk news sources and circulates more junk news than all the other groups put together; (2) on Facebook, extreme hard right pages—distinct from Republican pages—share the widest range of known junk news sources and circulate more junk news than all the other audiences put together; (3) on average, the audiences for junk news on Twitter share a wider range of known junk news sources than audiences on Facebook's public pages.

http://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/polarization-partisanship-and-junk-news/

[Ed. note: page is loading very slowly; try a direct link to the actual report (pdf). --martyb]


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

 
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  • (Score: 0, Troll) by khallow on Thursday February 08 2018, @10:40PM (7 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 08 2018, @10:40PM (#635258) Journal
    There are serious flaws from the very beginning. First one is in the title. They refer to "junk news". In addition, they asserted in the abstract:

    Drawing on a list of sources that consistently publish political news and information that is

    There are more connotatively neutral ways to describe this phenomena. They chose not to do that from the very beginning. Strong connotation in the research itself is a sign of propaganda. Let us also keep in mind that they describe themselves [soylentnews.org] as having this sort of bias and they are funded by the EU (which has interest in both protecting the rationalization for "hate speech" laws and in marginalizing and suppressing separatist groups, which happen to be mostly far right).

    Second is the "12 angry men", a group of "trained coders". That is a highly subjective methodology for evaluation and it has been abused [wattsupwiththat.com] in research before. From criticism of the John Cook "97%" paper I just linked:

    Each abstract was categorized by two independent, anonymized raters. The study participants were all members of the same Skeptical Science group, were often friends and they were actively talking to one another about how to categorize papers. There may be some semantic parsing which would make the claim these raters were “independent” true, but Cook and his colleagues must have known there’s no way anyone reading their paper would have guessed the “independent” raters were talking to one another about how to rate things: Similarly, while it may be true the raters were only presented certain information as part of the rating system, Cook and his colleagues intentionally left out the fact the raters cheated and looked up additional information.

    It's worth noting here that there's no mention in either the research paper or the online supplement of what, if anything, the researchers of the present work did to avoid this sort of collusion between coders.

    Sources of junk news were evaluated and reevaluated in a rigorously iterative coding process. A team of 12 trained coders, familiar with the US political and media landscape, label ed sources of news and information based on a grounded typology. The Krippendorff’s alpha value for inter-coder reliability among three executive coders, who develop ed the grounded typology, was 0.805 . The 91 sources of political news and information , which we identified over the course of several years of research and monitoring , produce content that includes various forms of propaganda and ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan, and conspiratorial political information. We tracked how the URLs to these websites were being shared over Twitter and Facebook (see online supplement for details).

    Notice both the vague assurances of academic rigor ("rigorously iterative coding process" and "trained coders") and continued use of negative connotation terms.

    This methodology is quite relevant because it is the way they distinguish between "junk news" and not. Do you really think the conclusions of the paper would remain the same, if this judging process were executed by heavily biased US Republican or UK National Front operatives, for example?

    Next we have the choice of time span and lack of ability to distinguish between genuine tweet accounts and fake news accounts. The Russian efforts to distribute fake news (a variation of junk news) would be underway at this time (with apparently no one else operating on that scale). That would result in a large number of promiscuous Twitter users who propagate the fake news of the day. Has any attempt been made to filter those accounts out? Of course not. It has been alleged [soylentnews.org] that the key research finding is that certain alt-right or conservative user groups are more likely to distribute junk news. But how much of that promiscuity is due to real, live humans? It's real convenient that the authors didn't bother to quantify this obvious issue.

    Moving on, there's the usual silliness of demanding all criticism redo the research that costs significant money, time, and resources (and would still suffer from the same potential for bias). If it costs the original group two million pounds to do the work, I don't see myself effectively criticizing it for free. It's a variation of the argument from authority fallacy.

    A research group using dubious research practices confirms the biases of some SN posters and the extremely expensive onus is on me to show that there is a problem? Screw that.

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  • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:08PM (5 children)

    by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:08PM (#635271)

    Get a Facebook account and see what "news" is shared continually. Sure there's some leftist fake news, but the vast majority shared is spread by right wingers who obviously make zero effort to fact check their "news". Most is obviously fake to anyone with a scrap of judgement, but it got Donald Trump elected.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:21PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:21PM (#635280)

      Get a Facebook account

      What??? What the fuck you say?

      Facebook is a self selecting sample of people with low IQ and poor self esteem but the paper does not say "stupid people share fake news". To prove political leaning, you must first prove Democrat voters on Facebook were not too busy drooling out of the corner of their mouths [imgur.com] to interact with the website. This is highly unlikely.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09 2018, @07:11AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09 2018, @07:11AM (#635431)

        but the paper does not say "stupid people share fake news".

        Um, actually? It does.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:41PM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:41PM (#635285) Journal

      Get a Facebook account and see what "news" is shared continually.

      I'm not touching Facebook.

      • (Score: 2) by Joe Desertrat on Monday February 12 2018, @10:40PM (1 child)

        by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Monday February 12 2018, @10:40PM (#636857)

        Yet you feel compelled to comment on a topic based on social media posts.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 13 2018, @01:52AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 13 2018, @01:52AM (#636929) Journal

          Yet you feel compelled to comment on a topic based on social media posts.

          What is that supposed to mean? Are you insinuating that somehow I'm unqualified to speak about social media because I'm not on Facebook?

          Let me remind you that we have plenty of news about Facebook and Twitter. I can and have surfed over to webpages which display communications from these communities. I know what I'm missing, and I don't mind missing that at all. And yes, I realize there is a lot of right-wing crap on Facebook. I don't need to be on Facebook to figure that out.

          Second, the research of this story is just the latest in a long line of official rationalizations that attempt to portray "alt-right" behavior and speech as crazy or deviant behavior. I think it is unwise to ignore both the unscientific nature of this study as well as the ulterior motives behind it.

  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:09PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08 2018, @11:09PM (#635273)

    Clinton will win and Trump / Brexit will destroy the economy are all examples of fake news. The authors definition of "junk news" contains nebulous references to professionalism that are lacking within mainstream journalism as comparable to academic rigour lacking in politicised papers like the one under discussion.

    I suggest further defences of this shitshow by our leftist friends be done during a featured guest spot on the Gorilla Channel? [avclub.com]