The Strategist

Researchers: suspicious Facebook accounts are multiplying as European Parliament election is getting closer

05/23/2019 - 10:19

According to the international public organization Avaaz, the European Internet is “choking on misinformation” on the eve of elections to the European Parliament. Experts have found more than 500 suspicious groups and pages that spread fake news and extremist propaganda and have tens of millions of subscribers. At the same time, according the Oxford Institute, Facebook users are more actively sharing fake news than Twitter users, who rely more on credible sources.

In the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament, the international public organization Avaaz published results of a study on dissemination of fake news and extremist propaganda related to elections. The report included results of a three-month study in six European countries (Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Poland and Spain), conducted by independent experts and journalists.

550 suspicious pages and groups were identified on Facebook alone. Besides, there were 328 profiles that published fake news and videos and distributed this content.
Almost 32 million users subscribed to these profiles and pages. Over the past three months the users have liked, commented or shared these posts more than 67 million times.

According to the study’s authors, creators of fake videos and news did not try to make their content convincing or believable. For example, reports of crimes allegedly committed by refugees were accompanied by videos of migrants smashing a police car or raping women who were shots from films. In Germany, the content mainly defended the writer Ursula Haverbeck, who denied the Holocaust, supported the far-right Alternatives for Germany or just published swastikas. In France, there were publications about white supremacy, Italians received illegal immigration topics presented in a distorted way, and citizens of the UK sites faced promotion of far-right activists.

Avaaz noted that Facebook has already taken some measures based on the study’s results. 77 pages and groups, as well as 230 accounts distributing fake content and extremist propaganda, have been deleted in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Internet Problems at the University of Oxford conducted a study, also related to the problem of disseminating fake information in social networks on the eve of elections to the European Parliament. They estimate that fake news on Facebook is often more popular than news from reliable sources, and sometimes the number of comments, likes and reposts there is several times higher than that of reliable news.

The most popular topics for fakes on the eve of elections are immigration, Islamophobia, Euroscepticism, activities of European leaders or parties.

Also, it turned out that there are much less fake news on Twitter, according to the Internet Problems Institute, and users of this network do not often share such content. In general, only 4% of the content shared on Twitter can be attributed to unreliable data. 


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