Fake news published in the U.S. was overwhelmingly consumed and shared by right-wing social media users, a new study from the University of Oxford has revealed.
Research from Oxford's "computational propaganda project" investigated into the sources of "junk news" shared in the three months leading up to President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address last month.
On Facebook, they found that "extreme hard-right" conservatives shared more fake news stories than all other political groups combined, while on Twitter, Trump supporters consumed the most fake news.
"On Twitter, a network of Trump supporters consumes the largest volume of junk news, and junk news is the largest proportion of news links they share," they said.
Researchers monitored 13,500 politically-active U.S. Twitter users and 48,000 public Facebook pages, investigating the external websites they shared links to.
Researchers said there was "limited overlap" of news sources shared between Democrats and Republicans, which they said speaks to the polarization that exists across the U.S. political divide.
They warned that social media algorithms can be used to distribute polarizing political content and misinformation, adding that "filter bubble effects," which select what information to show in news feeds based on user preferences and behavior, have "polarized public life," which could leave consumers vulnerable to propaganda campaigns.
"Given the central role that social media plays in public life, these platforms have become a target for propaganda campaigns and information operations," researchers wrote.
They pointed to a recent U.S. elections review by Twitter that found that more than 50,000 automated accounts were linked to Russia.
Facebook, meanwhile, has revealed that content from the Russian Internet Research Agency reached more than 126 million U.S. citizens before the 2016 presidential election.
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