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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Any number of factors helped tilt the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump, from Hillary Clinton’s fatally flawed campaign to the billions of dollars in free advertising our political press awarded her Republican opponent. Still, no candidate in modern American history has benefitted more from the proliferation of “fake news” on social media than the former host of “The Apprentice.” For evidence, one need look no further than the latest findings of Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Research Project.

After studying the Twitter feeds of 13,000 users across the political spectrum, the Project determined that Trump supporters are among the most prolific purveyors of “misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news about politics, economics or culture.” (For the purposes of its research, the Oxford team compiled a “watch list” of approximately 100 websites with a history of publishing conspiracy theories or overt propaganda.)

The numbers are striking. Less than 16 percent of the sample group—2,000 accounts who have either shared explicitly pro-Trump links or contain the hashtag #MAGA in their bios—were responsible for 55 percent of the “junk news” tweeted out. Of the 47,000 Facebook accounts the Project examined, Trump supporters posted 60 percent of the content deemed spurious or inaccurate. Meanwhile, left-leaning accounts tended to circulate more stories from the mainstream media.

“The social networks mapped from public Twitter and Facebook data show that the junk political news and information was concentrated among Trump’s supporters,” the report concludes. “The two main political parties, Democrats and Republicans, prefer different sources of political news, with limited overlap.”

Lisa-Maria Neudert, one of the study’s lead researchers, believes these findings may contain a “silver lining.” As she tells Denise Clifton of Mother Jones, the fact that Trump dead-enders have distributed a disproportionate amount of this dreck “could suggest that most other groups are less susceptible to extremist or conspiratorial content.”

One thing is certain: When it comes to promulgating misinformation and outright lies, the president couldn’t ask for a more pliant base.

H/T Mother Jones

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.