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Fake News Sharing In US Is a Rightwing Thing, Says Oxford Study (theguardian.com) 997

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Low-quality, extremist, sensationalist and conspiratorial news published in the U.S. was overwhelmingly consumed and shared by rightwing social network users, according to a new study from the University of Oxford. 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." The research involved monitoring a core group of around 13,500 politically-active U.S. Twitter users, and a separate group of 48,000 public Facebook pages, to find the external websites that they were sharing.
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Fake News Sharing In US Is a Rightwing Thing, Says Oxford Study

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:32PM (#56080801)
    Tomayto, tomahto though.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:49PM (#56080907)

      So accusing Donald Trump of being a Russian agent isn't extremist leftist globalist fake news? Nothing that they try to throw at this guy can stick, and even Wikileaks has come up dry on him.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Who accused him of anything he didn't do? Obstructing justice is a felony. By any account he's more guilty of that than Nixon.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @12:03AM (#56080997)

        Trump isn't a Russian spy... He is a dupe, a sucker, a useful idiot for Putin. He's gone from mere dupe to a willful participant though.

        Trump's a chump. How are those coal mining jobs? Pennsylvania hiring tens of thousands of coal miners yet? Guess Trump isn't the sucker. He got his.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by friedman101 ( 618627 )
        So accusing Donald Trump of being a Russian agent isn't extremist leftist globalist fake news? Nothing that they try to throw at this guy can stick, and even Wikileaks has come up dry on him.

        No, it's not "fake news". In fact, it's so compelling a case that his own deputy attorney general saw fit to assemble an special counsel to investigate. Further, his attorney general had to recuse himself from the investigation into Trump's ties with Russia because of, uh, ties to Russia.

        There is 100X more meat
      • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @03:19AM (#56081815)

        So accusing Donald Trump of being a Russian agent isn't extremist leftist globalist fake news?

        Except I see very few people on the left accusing Trump of being a Russian agent, I won't say no one, but I haven't seen anyone on my FB feed claim it, and I have a lot more FB friends on the left than the right. And I've seen a ton of claims on the right that are at least as conspiratorial as that.

        Now there's suspicion it's possible, it was alleged by the Steele Dossier, and people discussed the possibility at the time, but when no evidence of that accusation turned up people generally stopped talking about it.

        Nothing that they try to throw at this guy can stick

        You mean nothing aside from 4 members of his campaign already being charged (and two pleading guilty), including his campaign manger and National Security advisor.

        Not to mention proving multiple instances of members of the Trump campaign contacting or seeking contact with Russian officials and lying about that contact, including Trump's Attorney General and his son.

        And we know there are active investigations into money laundering that involve Trump's son in law, obstruction of justice involving Trump, and probably a lot of other things that, like the Papadopoulos plea, we haven't heard about yet because it's being kept secret.

        and even Wikileaks has come up dry on him.

        What do you think Wikileaks is? They're not an elite investigative body, they post documents that people give them. How is them not having been given dumps on Trump exculpatory in the slightest?

        Hell, they haven't posted his tax returns despite those being one of the single most sought after documents out there. Does that mean you think Trump never got tax returns?

    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @01:27AM (#56081441)

      Tomayto, tomahto though.

      It's not IQ.

      I don't accept that there's a significant IQ gap between left and right, but even if there is there's a massive amount of overlap and it doesn't predict susceptibility to conspiracy theories.

      Heck, I just saw a guy I went to High School with on FB, he was the smartest guy in his year and he bought the Nunes memo hook, line, and sinker. His intellect didn't do squat to stop him from being taken in by a smear job.

      At a basic level the right celebrates authority (everyone in the tribe works together) while the left embraces individuality (everybody free to be themselves). This means the right tends to believe their authorities without question, while the left tends to question everything.

      That alone doesn't advantage the left or right with finding the truth. But mainstream religion is a thing that really hates being questioned, so religion and the political right eventually merged. And religions' antipathy to intellectual authorities spread to the right as a whole. You don't even need to be religious, if you're on the right you're taught to accept your authorities without question and reject opposing authorities outright.

      And once the right declared intellectually rigorous authorities to be part of the left then the left started to embrace them. Hence the right became prone to conspiracy theories as they rejected intellectual authorities and the left became resistant as they embraced them.

      Of course, one can easily imagine an alternate universe [goop.com] where the right embraces the authority of serious scholars [wikipedia.org] while the left embraces crackpot skepticism [wikipedia.org].

      • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @06:03AM (#56082289)

        At a basic level the right celebrates authority (everyone in the tribe works together) while the left embraces individuality (everybody free to be themselves). This means the right tends to believe their authorities without question, while the left tends to question everything.

        You haven't visited a college campus in this century, have you?

      • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @07:45AM (#56082541)

        At a basic level the right celebrates authority (everyone in the tribe works together) while the left embraces individuality (everybody free to be themselves). This means the right tends to believe their authorities without question, while the left tends to question everything.

        That alone doesn't advantage the left or right with finding the truth. But mainstream religion is a thing that really hates being questioned, so religion and the political right eventually merged. And religions' antipathy to intellectual authorities spread to the right as a whole. You don't even need to be religious, if you're on the right you're taught to accept your authorities without question and reject opposing authorities outright.

        And once the right declared intellectually rigorous authorities to be part of the left then the left started to embrace them. Hence the right became prone to conspiracy theories as they rejected intellectual authorities and the left became resistant as they embraced them.

        Of course, one can easily imagine an alternate universe [goop.com] where the right embraces the authority of serious scholars [wikipedia.org] while the left embraces crackpot skepticism [wikipedia.org].

        Yes, and there's actually another level to this. It is that there are two axes or variables.

        There is the aspect of, individual versus collective. That's one axis. Then there is another axis which runs vertically, called "levels". It is levels (or stages) in that societies develop and each new stage brings certain new things, over hundreds, and thousands of years.

        First, levels: pre-modern to modern to post-post-modern. The pre-modern is what you are calling "authoritarian religion" which is true, most of the pre-modern world going back across the ages of empires, was authoritarian hierarchies. That's where much of religion remains today. It brought "order" to the world, by authoritarian force. And in as much as some people today continue to want a stable ordered society, they are looking to these authoritarian values. And in and of itself that's not a bad thing, because the modern world came after conditions were right, ie. stable enough, so modernity is built on top of the previous stage of authoritarian order, and if order in a nation breaks down, well democracy also goes out of the window.

        Now what's interesting is that the left in America tends to be more in the modern to post-modern range, whilst the right tends to be more in the pre-modern to modern range. And to many on the left this looks like "low IQ" but that's not quite it. Rather, if you are living in more agrarian conditions, then your morals tend to be more traditional and pre-modern and authoritarian, whereas if you are living in more urban modern conditions, then your values and moral outlook tend to be more liberal and post-modern.

        But what few realise is that the post-modern is built on top of the modern and the modern is built on top of the pre-modern, and that's basically what a film like Mad Max illustrates, that the moment you weaken the underlying authoritarian order of a society, all the high ideals collapse and your precious liberal values along with them. Which is why bombing Afghanistan was never going to turn it into a liberal democracy.

        If you are liberal, you are affording the luxury to be liberal thanks to the existing wide social order which is the concern of the authoritarian structure, it is just that the authoritarian structure is just not the most prominent anymore, but it is still there, part of the fabric.

        And in addition to the pre-modern to modern right, and the modern to post-modern left, there is also the individual/social dimensions. The modern left tends to assume that problems are because society is bad, and so you have to fix society, and for example, level the playing field, and so they favour taxes and redistribution. Whe

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:37PM (#56080843) Homepage

    If you believe something that the rest of society disagrees with, that is the definition of extremist.

    In America, the liberals have focused on the college educated while the conservatives focused on the blue collar workers, at least over the past 10-20 years.

    It is harder to trick college educated people into believing false statements.

    QED, fake news gets picked up by the blue collar workers, and certain conservative politicians have decided to appeal to this demographic, so they don't publicly fight against the fake news.

    The liberals on the other hand are led by college educated people that disbelieve and fight against the fake news.

    It's not that the liberals are immune nor that the conservatives are susceptible. It's just a result of demographics.

    • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:55PM (#56080951)

      > If you believe something that the rest of society disagrees with, that is the definition of extremist.

      If I may say, no. Violently enforcing your opinion would be extremist. Mere disagreement is hardly extremist.

      > It is harder to trick college educated people into believing false statements.

      It is certainly possible to do so.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @01:06AM (#56081341) Homepage Journal

      First of all, what makes you an extremist -- left or right -- is being unable to see any validity in points of view that differ even modestly from yours. This means extremists have trouble perceiving any middle ground... or even middle-shading ground. Either you agree with them completely, or you are not a true liberal or conservative in their eyes.

      Extremists subscribe to sets of ideas rather than think for themselves. If you want to know whether you truly think for yourself, ask yourself, "do I really fit in with the people who usually agree with me?" If the answer is "yes", you probably don't.

      Secondly, a college education is only an opportunity to learn critical thinking, one that relatively few people take advantage. I see no evidence that college educated people as a body think more critically about news sources than blue collar people. Someone who is inclined to genuine skepticism will that hone mindset with more education, but someone inclined to be credulous will go through whatever motions he needs to graduate, and come out as intellectually defenseless as he went in.

      People are not demographic robots. There are sharp-witted janitors and fools with PhDs (morosophs). Had their opportunities in life been switched the world might be a better place.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @01:09AM (#56081355)

      It is harder to trick college educated people into believing false statements.

      It is harder to trick people with experience in a topic into believing false statements about that topic. Come up with seductive false statements about blue collar jobs, and college educated people will believe it just as easily as blue collar workers will believe seductive false statements about white collar jobs. Likewise, after having managed and run businesses for 10 years, I've found many college graduates and academics with no real-world business experience to be astonishingly naive in their beliefs about how business works.

      The problem isn't primarily lack of education as you've concluded. The problem is once people want to believe something (like believing education is the primary distinguishing factor), they stop being objective. Once they want to believe something, they've already decided a certain conclusion is desirable. Any evidence they see will be filtered through that desire. Conforming data will be accepted with little to no skepticism. Contradictory data will be sifted with a fine-toothed comb and the tiniest flaw will be seen as permission to disbelieve the whole thing even if that flaw has minimal impact on its veracity. You're supposed to review the data, and use it to reach a conclusion. But it's human nature to jump to a conclusion, then pick out the data which supports that conclusion.

      Very few people I've met are honest enough with themselves to accept contradictory data at face value. Real world experience is one of the few things that can force people to accept contradictory data, and usually they still need to be kicked in the pants by it several times before they'll start to accept that it might actually be correct. Education based on that experience can be useful, but outside of STEM I've found a lot of education is just selecting and presenting the subset of data which supports the viewpoint the instructor believes.

  • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:45PM (#56080887)
    the 91 sites the researchers had manually coded as “junk news” I want this list; I could then put them into the corporate firewall to see which users are the most easily manipulated with gossip and rumors!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Basically, these leftists at Oxford labelled everything "right wing"/"conservative" as "junk" (which it arguable IS from the perspective of a snarky post-modernist leftist troll) and then they conclude that right wingers and conservatives consume junk news.

      They Ranked sitesd like William F Buckley's "National Review" (one of the most respected conservative publications and sites in the USA) and "American Thinker" as "junk".

      From the perspectives of most conservatives, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, WaPo and BYT are all

  • by jlowery ( 47102 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:55PM (#56080955)

    Facts get in the way of a good story.

  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:57PM (#56080957) Homepage Journal

    I think this story (and the research it reports) is fundamentally misleading. In terms of psychological warfare, of course you need to target your victims carefully. Some targets like (or are suckers for) fake news, others not so much. Time for a bit of anecdotal evidence:

    In general there are few so-called Republicans in my neck of the woods, but when I did meet a couple of them for beers before the election, I noticed that they had also been drinking the strange Kool-Aid, and hard. In particular, each of them thought Hillary was a demonic monster, but they were completely orthogonal about what was wrong with her. At the time I was mostly amused that they could believe such silly things. Looking back, I think that each of them had been successfully targeted with different flavors of fake news and the most interesting aspect is how they could be so unified in their hatred while being so divided in their peculiar reasoning.

    Now in my own case, I think I was successfully targeted by a different kind of divide and conquer strategy. I was encouraged to get overly enthusiastic about Bernie to the point of firing my wallet at the wrong target. I can't prove it was done by the Russians, but I think I was quite probably targeted by pro-Bernie news and propaganda that helped divide the Democratic Party quite effectively. I never swallowed the anti-Hillary bait (beyond my basic dislike of lawyers), but I should have shot my wallet at a more useful target, perhaps the Democratic Party in Michigan?

    The much more serious question is how much Putin's goons learned from the prior elections and how well they will apply those lessons going forward. Right now it looks like the Bolshevik Republicans are much more concerned with defending PARTY discipline than with defending the nation. (Kind of laughable if you know the history of the original Bolsheviks.)

    Still anecdotal, but I miss the rational Republicans. Long time since I've spoken to one.

    • by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @01:01AM (#56081317)

      Stand down, there. You weren't conned into funding Bernie. Bernie was the better candidate in almost every way. We should vote for the better man. We should fund the better man.

      There's fake news and there's problematic news. The bots will push both if they think either is useful, but that doesn't make problematic news fake news. The Democratic party really did shoot itself in the ass by intentionally hamstringing Bernie. If they hadn't for example delayed the debates (which are massively helpful for putting candidates on the map such that you start to look into what he/she candidate offers) Bernie's numbers would have been enough to win. If you look at his progress as a graph you can see he passes Clinton if the race goes on longer or starts earlier -- and the race really only gets started after the first debate, so delaying the debate made Clinton, who had more brand recognition at the outset, inevitable. And there's no way Trump could have beaten Bernie -- He was shown in multiple polls to be significantly further ahead of Trump than Clinton. (The polls had a systematic anti-Trump bias, but in a Trump vs. Bernie vs Clinton poll that would even out and so doesn't matter for these polls.) We have the Democratic party to thank for Trump.

      So long as you didn't vote for Trump or stay home, you did the right thing.

      As for your money needing to go to Hillary, it wasn't lack of money which kept her from winning. She outspent Trump almost 2 to 1. In large part it was HOW she was spending it. TV advertising costs a fortune, doesn't do much to move people, and is the primary expenditure for most campaigns (second to payroll for Clinton). It gets the most spending because the campaign folks who place the ads get a percentage back from the TV stations. It's TV spending that makes campaign folks rich. For numbers, look at these URLs: http://metrocosm.com/where-doe... [metrocosm.com] and https://www.bloomberg.com/poli... [bloomberg.com] In retrospect, it's clear she needed more legal staff to contest voter suppression and more ground staff to get people to the polls.

      • Stand down, there. You weren't conned into funding Bernie. Bernie was the better candidate in almost every way. We should vote for the better man. We should fund the better man.

        I'm not sure I agree with this. Bernie was a fantastic speaker but he had three big flaws. First, his ideas were far-left, even for the Democratic party, that really can scare off voters. Two, he was naive in the sense that he oversold how much he could get accomplished. Three, a lot of his policy was very hand-wavy, now some of that was Clinton denying him top-end advisors, but he didn't have the same policy chops.

        Now Clinton was outrageously competent and was much closer policy-wise to the average voter,

      • I think Trump would still have won. Many swingvoters (and they are the ones that count) didi not vote for Trump, bit against the political establishment. Remember that Trump was not the Rep favorite either.

    • by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @01:01AM (#56081325)

      Still anecdotal, but I miss the rational Republicans. Long time since I've spoken to one.

      I think what made them really disappear was Alan Greenspan crying in front of Congress, admitting that the economic theories he based our fiscal policy on for decades were based on flawed premises. When guys like Paul Ryan try to argue for supply side economics, knowing full well that the only true test for economic theories—history—has proven the theory to be everything its critics have accused it of, it's almost more infuriating to hear them pretend to be rational.

      Something had to replace the intellectual libertarians who lean on their highly theoretical ideas about how to optimize the economy. Hopefully populism, jingoism, and a complete disregard for rationality are just stop-gap measures while the GOP rediscovers itself. Unfortunately, the GOP has long been the party of convincing the ignorant to vote against their own interests. The "supply side" rationality of Reagan and his ilk and the xenophobic rancor of Trump and his cronies are just different methods for convincing those who know nothing about economics to vote for those who seek political power as a means for reinforcing their economic power.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Solandri ( 704621 )
      I'm conservative and disagree with almost everything Bernie believes in. But I would've voted for him over Trump. Bernie was pretty much the only candidate with a shot to win the nomination that I felt was genuinely honest. And I'd rather have someone honest that I disagree with as President, than someone who'll lie and cheat to win the office. (Since the choice ended up being Clinton and Trump, I ended up voting third party).

      However, I think it's fascinating that you seem to have accepted all this pr
  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @12:32AM (#56081157)

    for example, the Russia collusion story... fake or real? Some will say real... some will say fake. Which is it? There's no evidence but it could be real... it could also be fake.

    The problem here is that you have dueling narratives and what is real or not is often not relevant to anyone. We've found this with all the political factions.

    • by bug_hunter ( 32923 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @02:41AM (#56081707)

      > for example, the Russia collusion story... fake or real? Some will say real... some will say fake. Which is it? There's no evidence but it could be real... it could also be fake.

      Well to say there was guaranteed collusion from Trump is fake, or at least currently unverifiable.
      To say there's proof of Trump being blackmailed due to Russian prostitutes is baseless.

      However all the following are verifiable:
      There's an ongoing investigation into the matter by the FBI.
      That Trump's form National Security advisor Michael Flynn pleased guilty to lying to the FBI about discussions with the Russian Ambassador.
      That Trump Junior was happy to meet with Russians for dirty on Hillary without thinking of the consequences.

      If it turns out Trump is innocent on any collusion, or only guilty of minor misconduct because he didn't stop and think, it wont have made most stories about it "fake".
      Normally fake news (by its pre-Trump usage) is so fake it's painful, e.g. pizzagate.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Here is one for you...

        Clinton PAID for Russian propaganda to affect the election, this is now proven.
        FBI and DOJ used this propaganda to illegal get a FISA warrant on Carter Page, lying 4 times to get it, and allowing them to wiretap most of Trump's staff because of how FISA warrants work, this is now proven.

        So we have ACTUAL EVIDENCE of Clinton, FBI, DOJ, and State Department colluding with Russia to affect an election, yet no investigation.
        So claiming an investigation means nothing. EVIDENCE means someth

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @01:22AM (#56081421)

    It seems to me that the promotion of conspiracy theories and fake news will play a larger part in future elections. I can easily see it being used to drive a wedge between the hard right and the primary candidate of the right. By driving a portion of their voters to someone with no chance of winning (e.g. a Libertarian candidate), Democrats could make it far easier to win elections due in part to the first-past-the-post voting.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @01:27AM (#56081439) Homepage Journal

    Does it routinely issue corrections and retractions? If so it may be biased, but arguably that's unavoidable. It might even be a lousy news source. But at least it's trying to be real news, to get things factually right.

    We live in an age when many people have in effect given up on objective reality. That is dangerous. Hannah Arendt, in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, notes that totalitarian regimes strive to make their subjects gullible and cynical at the same time. Purely cynical people don't go along when you need them to. Gullible people are hard to manage when they realize the truth. But someone who is gullible and cynical at the same time is perfectly tractable and docile.

    • I imagine that it's really easy to be a right winger these days. You wouldn't question God, so why would you question the Party of God? There's only a few people and news outlets you trust, and a single narrative that's shared by them all. If there are any questions, it's answered quickly by The Party. There's no reason to investigate, collect data, or consult specialists - in fact, to do so would mark you as an enemy, or at the very least, someone who has lost his way and needs to get with the program.
  • BS gap (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @02:04AM (#56081599) Journal

    Us progressives gotta up our bullshit game. Trump's hair is really a covered satellite dish streaming to Russian satellites. And it's orange due to deregulation at the hair-dye factory. Hannity made Haitian babies eat Tide Pods. Ted Cruz was caught screwing goats behind Olive Garden. The goats gave him an 8. Sarah Palin's re-translation of the Bible is really Mein Kampf in reverse if you replace every 3rd "r" with "z".

  • by Noishkel ( 3464121 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @02:25AM (#56081669)
    There's so much wrong with this study that it could be a study itself in how bad research is done. The most glaring is that the author of this tripe laid out an arbitrary categories of what the author believes to be what is and is not a legitimate news site. Many of which have little to do with what the information reports actually is, but the style in which it is presented. One of the most glaring examples of which is that The Drudge Reported is considered fake news. Drudge is little more than a basic news aggregator. It's also very questionable that while there is a list of sites that are considered 'junk' it does not say why exactly each site is considered 'junk'.
  • by RedK ( 112790 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2018 @10:30AM (#56083143)

    At least from the most top moderated comments. The study is a biased hack job, and anyone with an ounce of objectivity can see it.

    Essentially, they picked 91 sites that they deemed "junk", through 5 criteria (3 of which had to be met). The problem is that they picks do not normalize for traffic and breadth, and they didn't study the actual content being shared. You might not like Breitbart, but it's not much worse than Vox/Mic/Buzzfeed and heck, even CNN, which also met at least 3 of the criteria on their list of "junk". Breitbart is also not all fake and junk. Without bias, it's hard to say they don't get some things correct. And they do offer corrections when they are wrong.

    Look at the actual list of sites, it's funny Breitbart is picked (a popular right wing biased site), but not the aforementionned "popular" left sites :

    http://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/wp... [ox.ac.uk]

    DailyCaller, Breitbart, Hannity (you can not like the guy and his "tick tocks, it annoys everyone)... where are the big left sites ?

    So a popular right site gets shared more than a bunch of unknown left sites ? Color me shocked. The study is about how a website with a larger audience gets more interaction on social media. It has nothing to do with their premise.

    IE : they set out to prove something, and picked their sample to confirm their own bias. Next time include Vox and Mic and buzzfeed and let's see how balanced this truly is.

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