Study shows Twitter is failing to properly combat fake news

Following the ‘fake news’ debacle during the 2016 election, many expected the social media giant to launch campaigns to combat the phenomenon. However, according to a recent study by the Knight foundation, “fake news’ has in fact grown rather than receded in the last few years.

The study was run by the Knight foundation and conducted by Matthew Hindman, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, and Vlad Barash of a network analysis firm, Graphika.

According to the study, over 80% of the accounts reported for ‘fake news’ are still active and sending over 1 million tweets a day. The study examined over 10 million tweets from 700,000 different accounts that had been linked to ‘fake news’ outlets. However, over 65% of the tweets examined linked to a collection of the 10 largest sites, a statistic that has remained constant before and after the election. In total, over 6.6 million tweets out of the 10 million examined linked to fake news or conspiracy websites and publications.

Sam Gill, vice-president for communities and impact at the Knight foundation, commented on the study’s findings in a recent press release:

“Our democracy relies on access to news and information that we can trust. Right now, the discussion about misinformation online is based on anxiety and conventional wisdom. That’s not good enough.”

Over 60% of the examined Twitter accounts showed signs of automated activity, or bots. Many of the bot accounts linking to fake news sites follow each other on Twitter, indicating that they might all be coming from the same source.

Along with Twitter, sites such as Facebook ang Google faced pubic outrage. With the midterm elections approaching next month, both Twitter and Facebook are attempting to curb the threat of fake news. In August, Twitter created new labels to identify candidates and transparency initiatives for political advertising.

Twitter points to such initiatives to dispute such studies, claiming it ignores the various efforts it takes to stifle automated accounts.

Del Harvey, global vice president of trust and safety at Twitter, said in a statement via email:

“Twitter is a vital source of real-time antidote to day-to-day falsehoods. We are proud of this use case and work diligently to ensure we are showing people context and a diverse range of perspectives as they engage in civic debate and conversations on our service.”

The Knight foundation did offer any further comments at this time.