By now, we’re so used to hearing President Donald Trump declare media outlets “fake news” that it’s become something of a joke — he’s even given out “Fake News Awards” to certain journalists. But there is a sinister side to the 45th president’s frequent disavowal of news. A study from the University of Oxford published on February 6th found that Trump supporters are more likely to read and share “junk news” on social media.
As part of Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Project, researchers examined the biggest sources of fake news in the three months prior to Trump’s first State of the Union address. Throughout the duration of the experiment, the researchers looked at about 13,500 politically inclined Twitter users and roughly 48,000 public Facebook pages. And at the end of the study, they concluded that the spread of false information had a surprisingly partisan bent.
According to the study, Trump supporters were responsible for sharing 55 percent of the fake news on Twitter and 58 percent on Facebook. This is despite the fact that Trump supporters made up only 14 percent of accounts monitored on Twitter and 8 percent of pages observed on Facebook.
For the purpose of the study, “junk news” was defined as outlets that published false or misleading information while pretending to be a viable news source. Such sources included the popular far-right websites Breitbart News and InfoWars.
The study also warned against how polarized social media has made life in America, saying that it could lead Americans to be exposed to propaganda. It cited the widespread use of Russian-funded ads during the 2016 presidential election as an example.
Given that Trump told nearly 2,000 falsehoods in 2017 alone, it’s clear that the president has little regard for the truth. And based on the conclusions of this new study, it seems that Trump supporters have absorbed this dubious sense for what is “fake news” and what is real. At the end of the day, no matter what politicians would have us believe, facts are not partisan. We need to continue to check the websites we read and work to stop the spread of fake news.