LONDON/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - One in three news articles shared on social media about Sweden’s upcoming election are from “junk news” websites, a study has found, pointing to widespread online disinformation in the final stages of a tightly-contested campaign.
The Oxford Internet Institute’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which is funded by the European Research Council, analysed 275,000 tweets about the Swedish election from a 10-day period in August, marking those it identified as “junk news.”
The Oxford Internet Institute defines “junk news” sources as outlets which “deliberately publish misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news.”
To be classified as a “junk news” source in the study, outlets had to meet at least three of the following five criteria:
- Professionalism: These outlets do not employ standards and best practices of professional journalism. They refrain from providing clear information about real authors, editors, publishers and owners. They lack transparency and accountability, and do not publish corrections on debunked information.
- Style: These outlets use emotionally driven language with emotive expressions, hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, misleading headlines, excessive capitalization, unsafe generalisations and logical fallacies, moving images, and lots of pictures and mobilising memes.
- Credibility: These outlets rely on false information and conspiracy theories, which they often employ strategically. They report without consulting multiple sources and do not fact-check. Sources are often untrustworthy and standards of production lack reliability.
- Bias: Reporting in these outlets is highly biased, ideologically skewed or hyper-partisan, and news reporting frequently features strongly opinionated commentary.
- Counterfeit: These sources mimic established news reporting. They counterfeit fonts, branding and stylistic content strategies. Commentary and junk content is stylistically disguised as news, with references to news agencies and credible sources, and headlines written in a news tone with date, time and location stamps.
Reporting by Jack Stubbs in LONDON and Johan Ahlander in STOCKHOLM; Editing by Philippa Fletcher