How Fake News Really Spreads

Post-truth politics is a “political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy”. The narrative takes center stage and factual rebuttals to the political agenda are consciously disregarded. Demagoguery assumes the role of the protagonist. Fake news, Disinformation and Hoaxes become the setting. And, the Internet is the theatre. Since 2016 however, these post-truth plays have been largely harbored by Twitter.

In a study commissioned by the Knight Foundation, Matthew Hindman of George Washington University and Vlad Barash of Graphika examined how ‘fake news’ actually spread across tweets in the months preceding and post the 2016 US presidential elections.

In a vivid interactive by Accurat that carefully captures the fluid temporality of the twitterverse, the study depicts more than “10 million tweets from 700,000 Twitter accounts that linked to more than 600 fake 
and conspiracy news sites.”

One myth that this study debunks is that fake news is spread by thousands of small, independent sites when in reality, it is largely concentrated around a handful of websites, and in the case of the 2016 elections, 24. A pattern that seems to run throughout these coordinated twitter campaigns is that of Clusters, a network of twitter users who inter-tweet and inter-link to disinformation from these sources. These accounts, a whole 13861 of them, the study samples as the most crucial in spreading fake news, half of which were found to be automated based on their posting cycles.

Check out the full interactive here.

Author: Surabhi Naik

Surabhi Naik is a designer and writer dedicated to Immersive Narratives & Experience Design based in New York City. A graduate student at The New School’s Media Studies Program, she is currently deep-diving into Immersive Storytelling Design & Research and is the Editor for Data Matters Publication at the Center for Data Arts.

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