Messaging platforms such as Telegram are key channels for the dissemination of misinformation and junk news. So far there are very few large-scale studies of how news and political content circulates on these platforms. We use a large open access dataset to analyze which English-language news sources are prevalent on public Telegram channels, the scale of their audience and how information spreads on the platform. Our key results are:
- Junk news sources received a third of all the views on Telegram for the most prominent twelve news sources we examined. Mainstream news sources receive a lot of attention, but two of the junk news sources received more views on Telegram than some well-known mainstream news outlets, including the Guardian or Daily Mail.
- There is a fairly large audience for junk news sources, but articles from these sources rarely circulated widely outside of channels dedicated to these sources.
- The audiences of junk news channels are on average significantly more engaged than the audiences of mainstream news channels. However, with a relatively small user base and no algorithmic timeline, these channels struggle to build a larger audience on Telegram.
Aleksi Knuutila, Aliaksandr Herasimenka, Jonathan Bright, Rasmus Nielsen & Philip N. Howard. “Junk News Distribution on Telegram: The Visibility of English-language News Sources on Public Telegram Channels.” Data Memo 2020.5. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda. comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk