Spanish study finds most fake news is created by governments, political parties and businesses

MOST fake news that finds its way into the Spanish public sphere is created by political parties, governments and corporations, according to a new study.

Barcelona’s Pompu Fabra University, the Wainwright Reform Trust and Xnet’s Fake News and Disinformation study found the use of ‘bots’ spiked during elections. The term refers to automated social media accounts designed to spread misinformation.

Report co-ordinator Simona Levi said the fake news situation was “much worse” than previously thought.

“None of the false news that changes the political debate is generated by people. They are created by governments, political parties, states and corporations,” Levi said.

The study analysed bot activity and found it increased by up to 25 per cent during election campaigns.

It looked at the election campaigns of Donald Trump in the US, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and at the social media activity of Spain’s main political parties during votes.

The accounts are used to spread misinformation but also to create debates and talking points that were not previously discussed.

This is to either draw attention to an issue or distract from others, the study said. They were also used to boost follower numbers on the accounts of political parties during campaigns.

“They act simultaneously and create trends that are not organic,” the study said.

The report also found the algorithms used by social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter were reinforcing people’s existing biases, making them more susceptible to fake news.

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Joe Gerrard

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