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New research shows US Republican politicians are increasingly spreading news on social media from untrustworthy sources

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A study analyzing millions of tweets has found that Republican members of the US Congress are increasingly spreading news from dubious sources, compared to their European counterparts.

The research, published in PNAS Nexus and led by the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) in Austria and the University of Bristol in the UK, showed that members of the Republican Congress share more links to websites classified as “untrustworthy”.

It is widely recognized that what politicians share on social media helps shape public perceptions and attitudes. The findings are particularly relevant, with the US midterm elections in November and many of the campaigns taking place on social media platforms.

First author Dr. Jana Lasser, Complexity Researcher from TU Graz, said: “The amount of unreliable information shared by politicians on social media is seen as increasing. We wanted to back this up with numbers, so we analyzed millions of original tweets from politicians from the US, Great Britain and Germany.”

The team of researchers collected more than 3.4 million tweets from politicians made between 2016 and 2022. These included 1.7 million tweets from members of the US Congress, 960,000 tweets from British MPs and 750,000 tweets from German MPs. The links in the tweets were matched against a database from the company NewsGuard, which assesses the credibility and transparency of news websites against nine journalistic criteria and identifies relevant details about the website’s ownership, funding, credibility and transparency.

The findings showed that members of the Republican Party, in particular, have shared significantly more links to websites classified as “untrustworthy” over the years. Compared to the period 2016 to 2018, the number of links to unreliable websites has doubled in the past two years.

dr. Lasser said, “In general, members of parties in the right half of the political spectrum in all countries studied share more of these ties — but only Republicans show this significant increase. In the other countries, the proportion remains stable.”

Notably, the percentage of links to untrustworthy websites posted by Republicans more than doubled between 2016 and 2018 and 2020 to 2022, from 2.4% to 5.5%.

Overall, Republican members of Congress post about nine times as many links as Democratic members of Congress, for whom only 0.4% of links in tweets point to untrustworthy sites.

In Europe, parliamentarians link even less to untrustworthy sites. Even among conservatives, only 0.25% of the left was shared by British Tory politicians and 0.18% of the left was shared by MPs from the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) ), a center-right Christian. -democratic alliance, were unreliable. The only European party whose source selection for Twitter posts resembled that of Republican MPs was Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right-wing populist political party.

“Repeating the analysis with a second, comparable database also yielded very similar results. In such analyses, it is important to use different assessments of the credibility of news sources to rule out bias or bias,” added Dr. Welder to it.

Corresponding author Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol, said: “Politicians are part of the educated elite; their behavior is a kind of compass of what is socially acceptable and what is not. Misinformation or news from sources that are not are very reliable, I find that very problematic.

“Despite their high social status, it is therefore important to critically take information shared by politicians and question the sources.”

Twitter posts reveal polarization in Congress over COVID-19

More information:
Sharing of low-quality news sources on social media by political elites, PNAS Nexus (2022). DOI: 10.48550/arXiv.2207.06313

Provided by the University of Bristol

Quote: New research shows US Republican politicians are increasingly spreading news on social media from untrustworthy sources (2022, September 21) retrieved September 22, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-republican-politicians- increasingly-news-social .html

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