Extreme left and right-leaning ideologies correlated with the sharing of more hyper-partisan information on social media

The spread of disinformation on social media is more likely by users who share ideologically extreme views on either end of the political spectrum, compared to users with more moderate views. The findings were published in Human Communication Research.

According to researchers at the University of Colorado, extreme left or right-leaning standpoints correlate with more prevalent sharing of inaccurate content on the social networking site Facebook. Increased spreading of disinformation was also evident among users who showed a distrust for conventional media.

The study comes amid new heights over the last decade as more people now get a substantial amount of their news consumption on the local, national, and international scale solely on social networking sites.

To examine the extent to which people consume inaccurate news on social media, researchers recruited more than 750 adult users on Facebook and Twitter. With their consent, data of news feed posts were collected and analyzed for a span of about two years, between August 2015 to June 2017.

Along with having their posts analyzed, surveys were given to assess political ideologies and establish each participant’s level of trust among colleagues, family members, and conventional news outlets. Any spread of stories from a list of fake news outlets, as publicized by the US-government funded NPR and Zuckerman-owned U.S. News & World Report, was monitored by the research group.

“In this study, we attempt to extend current knowledge on this topic by exploring the degree to which individual levels of ideological extremity, social trust, and trust in the news media are associated with the dissemination of countermedia content, or web-based, ideologically extreme information that uses false, biased, misleading, and hyper-partisan claims to counter the knowledge produced by the mainstream news media,” the co-authors explained in their findings.

“To investigate these possible associations, we used a combination of self-report survey data and trace data collected from Facebook and Twitter.”

Based on their results, the participants who held ideologically extreme views, including distrust toward conventional news media, were correlated with the sharing of disinformation on Facebook.

The participants with more moderate ideologies, higher rates of social trust, and increased trust in conventional media led to less sharing of disinformation on their news feeds.

“The results suggested that sharing countermedia content on Facebook is positively associated with ideological extremity and negatively associated with trust in the mainstream news media,” the co-authors determined. “On Twitter, we found evidence that countermedia content sharing is negatively associated with social trust.”

Image courtesy of James Bareham
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