New analysis from the University of Oxford shows Twitter was swamped with fake news during the 2016 presidential campaign, and that bad information was especially prevalent in key states like North Carolina.
In the ten days leading up to the election, Twitter users in swing states received huge amounts of fake or hyper-partisan election information. States that were safely in a candidate's corner received less.
Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute sampled hundreds of thousands of tweets during that period, and found that 40 percent of election-related tweets in North Carolina contained bad information.
More broadly, a significant amount of information spread on Twitter nationwide was also of a questionable nature, according to the research team.
“When links to Russian content and unverified WikiLeaks stories are added to the volume of junk news, fully 32% of all the successfully catalogued political content was polarizing, conspiracy-driven, and of an untrustworthy provenance,” they note.
Elon University professor Glenn Scott says voters need to step up as new campaigns approach.
“We all need to become more savvy,” Scott says. “We need to ask tougher questions about sources of information and not accept something because it seems to belong to the group we identify with.”
In contrast to the untrustworthy information being spread in the run-up to election day, the researchers note that only about 20 percent of tweets with campaign related hashtags originated with professional news organizations.