The study, from the university’s Computational Propaganda Research Project (COMPROP), focused on the proliferation of trashy news sources in the three months leading up to Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, and concluded that the majority (55%) of news shared and consumed by Trump supporters falls into its “junk news” category. Junk news was defined as coming from sites associated with low-quality, extremist, sensationalist or conspiratorial content — in other words, the very fake news Trump supporters loudly claim to hate.
Around 13,500 politically active US Twitter users as well as 48,000 Facebook pages were monitored and put into categories such as “Conservative Media,” “Women’s Rights,” “Resistance,” “Hard Conservative,” “Trump Supporters,” “Republican Party” (distinct from Trump supporters) and “Military/Guns.” The categorization was based both on post content and self-identification such as #MAGA in profile fields.
There was an extreme difference between the groups in frequency of links to the 91 sites the “team of 12 trained coders familiar with the US political and media landscape” had marked as junk: “The Trump Support group consumes the highest volume of junk news sources on Twitter, and spreads more junk news sources, than all the other groups put together. This pattern is repeated on Facebook, where the Hard Conservatives group consumed the highest proportion of junk news.”
Put simply, people marked with right-wing classifications (but particularly Trump supporters) strongly prefer bogus screeds from conspiracy theory sites like InfoWars and Breitbart, while left-wingers stick to authentic news reports from outlets like BBC, CNN, Young Turks, and MSNBC.
Surprisingly, the study did not find a lot of russian sites being shared, but the researchers added that “the political conversations on social media exclude a Russian audience group.”
The study did not address whether any of the monitored Twitter and Facebook accounts were bots.
Here’s the study’s list of junk news sites: