Now that Big Tech has seen it can get away with banishing Infowars, a study about the influence of Russian and non-Russian Twitter bot accounts on the 2016 election and beyond is now targeting The Gateway Pundit for banishment, supposedly as a means to diminish the influence of bots because The Gateway Pundit was one of the ‘top 10’ sites allegedly tweeted by the bots. The study published by the Knight Foundation on Thursday, titled, “Disinformation, ‘Fake News’ and Influence Campaigns on Twitter”, smears The Gateway Pundit as a “Fake News” site.
A 2017 study by Harvard echoed other studies that showed The Gateway Pundit was one of the most influential conservative media sites in 2016. Now in 2018 The Gateway Pundit is in the crosshairs of progressives and their Big Tech comrades.
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Adweek reported on the study targeting The Gateway Pundit:
…The results of the study, conducted by George Washington University associate professor Matthew Hindman and Vlad Barash, the science director at the network analysis service Graphika, showed that Twitter hasn’t cracked down on many of its fake news amplifiers. Eighty percent of Twitter accounts that were spreading false information during the campaign were still active on the platform, researchers found.
…The study found that most of the fake and conspiracy tweets on Twitter linked to only about 1o websites, including The Gateway Pundit and Truthfeed. That trend was largely unchanged from 2016. Additionally, about 60 percent of the accounts that shared and amplified fake news were estimated by researchers to have been automated accounts. Those accounts were densely connected, following each other at high rates and retweeting each other frequently, intensifying the impact and reach of each post.
“It raises questions about whether [tackling misinformation] is really a game of whack-a-mole,” Hindman said. “That’s what we expected going into this, but that’s not really what we found. We found that a large portion of fake and conspiracy news online really was from the same accounts and with links to the same sites.”
Other findings saw that fake and conspiracy news that was right-leaning and conservative became more pronounced after the election, primarily because the amount of left-leaning fake news decreased substantially. Researchers also found evidence of coordinated efforts to share and amplify fake news stories on the platform, especially coming from accounts that researchers associated with Russian propaganda.
Tis quote from the Executive Summary of the study cites the example of the banishment of an alleged “fake news” site, The Real Strategy, as an effective means to control the spread of “fake news.” The study’s Conclusion (reported at the end of this article) makes clear the authors’ case for banning sites, including TGP.
ONE CASE STUDY SUGGESTS THAT CONCERTED ACTION AGAINST NONCREDIBLE OUTLETS CAN DRASTICALLY REDUCE THEIR AUDIENCE
The Real Strategy was referenced by more than 700,000 tweets in our election sample, the second-most linked fake or conspiracy news outlet overall. After being tied to a large-scale harassment campaign and the “Pizzagate” falsehood, though, The Real Strategy’s Twitter account was deleted, it was blacklisted on online forums such as Reddit, and a network of supportive bot accounts was partially disrupted. The postelection sample showed only 1,534 tweets to The Real Strategy, a drop of 99.8 percent. This example suggests that aggressive action against fake news outlets can be effective at containing the spread of fake news.
The study’s definition of fake news:
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“This report goes beyond individual fake news stories to focus on fake news outlets—sites that regularly publish content that appears to have been rigorously verified, but in fact was not. In the most clear-cut cases, fake news outlets are designed to look like (nonexistent) traditional media outlets, but any sites that regularly publish content without a genuine verification process count as fake news under our definition.” (Page 13)
In the context of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, conspiracy-focused outlets have long been both more common and more effective than sites that publish only false content (see previous discussion). Conspiracy sites count as fake news outlets under our definition and that of most (though not all) other scholars. For clarity, though,
this report often uses the term fake and conspiracy news to better align with common usage. Some recent scholarly discussions of fake news have excluded outlets such as Sputnik News, Infowars and Zero Hedge from their analysis, to focus on sites that overwhelmingly publish false articles. Our strong view is that such ultra-narrow definitions of fake news outlets are a mistake, overlooking the most important vectors for damaging disinformation. This is doubly true with respect to questions about state-sponsored disinformation, which for decades has been laundered through conspiracy outlets of various kinds.
At the same time, our focus on fake and conspiracy news is narrower than that used in some other recent scholarship.41 Outlets that are just politically biased or ideologically extreme do not qualify as fake news by our measure, even if those sites incline toward sensationalism. We are concerned with factual accuracy, not with issues of framing or tone. And while hypothetical hard cases are easy to construct, they are largely
absent from the real data (more on this below). The core findings of this report are thus likely to hold no matter which scholarly definition of fake news one prefers.42 (Page 14)
There are five mentions of The Gateway Pundit in the study:
We do identify a number of segments linking especially often to particular fake news or conspiracy-leaning websites. Accounts within the Trump Support | Core, Always Trump, and MAGA | Conservative segments are especially active in linking to the Truthfeed site. Accounts in the Constitutional Conservative segment link often to The Gateway Pundit, while Libertarian Journos accounts are more likely to link to Activist Post. (Page 24)
Several of these segments link heavily to specific fake news outlets. The Pro-Trump | Core segment links heavily to Truthfeed, while the Pro-Trump | Pundits, Pro-Trump | Tea Party and Pro-Trump Right segments link heavily to both Truthfeed and The Gateway Pundit.
An even larger number of accounts are affiliated with the Conservative group in salmon, segments of which cover the entire right side of the map, along with a smattering of overlap leftward. Our clustering algorithms divide the Conservative group into 15 segments. Several of these segments link especially often to specific fake news outlets. The Conservative | Vets segment links heavily to Truthfeed, the Tea Party | Libertarian segment links heavily to The Gateway Pundit, and the Libertarian | Pols segment links heavily to The Free Thought Project. The Libertarian / International segment links heavily to Russia Insider. (Page 30)
In the early afternoon of April 8, 2017, a number of accounts in the network start retweeting several older conspiracy stories about Seth Rich. These initial tweets lack any obvious context or news hook. A few hours later, though, the use of the #SethRich hashtag shifts, with nearly all later tweets linking to a Gateway Pundit story. The Gateway Pundit article is based on newly released text messages from WikiLeaks, in which Guccifer 2.0 appears to name someone called “Seth” as “my whistleblower.”
The text messages included in the WikiLeaks story cannot be independently verified, of course. But if these texts were indeed from Guccifer 2.0, this would be a case of the network directly boosting messages of Russian “active measures” intended to influence U.S. politics. (Page 42)
The Conclusion spells out the study’s case for banning sites including The Gateway Pundit.
…Still, penalizing popular accounts that disseminate misinformation, by itself, is unlikely to significantly degrade disinformation efforts.
On the other hand, our maps do provide evidence that other types of interventions may be more successful. Many have suggested that fake news is a game of “whack-a-mole,” with new fake news sites constantly emerging.77 Our data tell a different story. Both before and after the election, most Twitter links to fake news are concentrated on a few dozen sites, and those top fake and conspiracy sites are largely stable. Reducing the social media audience of just the dozen most linked fake and conspiracy sites could dramatically reduce fake news on Twitter.
…This report will not be the last word on digital disinformation, but one thing is clear: The fake news that matters most is not organic, small-scale or spontaneous. Most fake news on Twitter links to a few
established conspiracy and propaganda sites, and coordinated campaigns play a crucial role in spreading fake news. The good news, though, is that policies focused on the largest fake and conspiracy news sites could greatly reduce the amount of fake news people see. Mapping the accounts that spread fake news is a key first step toward reducing its influence on democratic politics. (Page 44)