Everything I disagree with is #FakeNews: Correlating political polarization and spread of misinformation

author: Manoel Horta Ribeiro, Federal University of Minas Gerais
published: Dec. 1, 2017,   recorded: August 2017,   views: 751

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An important challenge in the process of tracking and detecting the dissemination of misinformation is to understand the gap in the political views between people that engage with the so called "fake news". A possible factor responsible for this gap is opinion polarization, which may prompt the general public to classify content that they disagree or want to discredit as fake. In this work, we study the relationship between political polarization and content reported by Twitter users as related to "fake news”. We investigate how polarization may create distinct narratives on what misinformation actually is. We perform our study based on two datasets collected from Twitter. The first dataset contains tweets about US politics in general, from which we compute the political leaning of each user towards the Republican and Democratic Party. In the second dataset, we collect tweets and URLs that co-occurred with "fake news" related keywords and hashtags, such as #FakeNews and #AlternativeFact, as well as reactions towards such tweets and URLs. We then analyze the relationship between polarization and what is perceived as misinformation, and whether users are designating information that they disagree as fake. Our results show an increase in the polarization of users and URLs (in terms of their associated political viewpoints) for information labeled with fakenews keywords and hashtags, when compared to information not labeled as "fake news". We discuss the impact of our findings on the challenges of tracking "fake news" in the ongoing battle against misinformation.

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