In the United States, social media platforms serve significant volumes of junk political news and information during important moments in political life—particularly elections. In this data memo, we examine the sources of political news and information that were shared by social media users in the period leading up to the 2018 US midterms, evaluate the sources, and identify the primary audiences for content that is sensational, extremist, conspiratorial or that has other qualities of junk news. Analyzing 2.5 million tweets and 6,986 Facebook pages over a 30-day period, we find that (1) the amount of junk news in circulation over social media is greater than it was during the 2016 US presidential election, with users sharing more junk news than professional news overall, (2) junk news once consumed by President Trump’s support base and the far-right is now being consumed by more mainstream conservative social media users, and that (3) less than five percent of the sources referenced on social media are from public agencies, experts, or the political candidates themselves.
Nahema Marchal, Lisa-Maria Neudert, Bence Kollanyi, Philip N. Howard, and John Kelly.“Polarization, Partisanship and Junk News Consumption on Social Media During the 2018 US Midterm Elections.” Data Memo 2018.5. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda. comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk