Did fake news impact the French election? Our CEO hashes it out on BloombergTV

May 9, 2017

Written by Benedict Nicholson
Social Media Analytics

After its impact on the U.S. presidential election, a stark spotlight has been cast on fake news and the effects of its spread. On May 5, our CEO, Paul Quigley, sat down with Bloomberg to discuss the role of fake news in the French election, how mainstream outlets are fighting it, and how NewsWhip tech ties in. 

After the U.S. presidential election, it became clear that fake news and misinformation played a much larger role in shaping voter sentiment than most had imagined. The rise of untrusted sites has put a spotlight on just how large of a role social media and sharing plays in the spread of fake news — and how outlets can combat fake news in the future.

On May 5, our CEO and Co-Founder Paul Quigley appeared on Bloomberg Tech TV to discuss the global fight against fake news, how social media and modern platforms can play a role in filtering it out, and how misinformation is permeating the French election.

As a technology platform that tracks the speed and spread of stories on social, NewsWhip has a unique ability to pinpoint fake news sources, and understand how fake news sites drive so much engagement during events like the U.S. election.

According to our historical content analysis platform, NewsWhip Analytics, nearly 40 percent of the most-shared stories in the lead up to the U.S. election came from fake news sources — 72 of the top 200 stories. That’s in large contrast to what we’ve seen so far in the French election. Of the top 200 most-shared stories from the past two months, only about 10 percent (20 out of 200 stories) came from proven fake news sites.
Social Media Analytics

Macron and Le Pen become more neck and neck as the election draws to a close, with Macron spiking ahead the week of April 24th with over 7 million engagements on related stories.

“There is a fake news problem without any doubt, but what we like to do is try to quantify how bad that problem is,” said Paul, “When we looked at data from the last two months in the lead up to the French presidential election, we can see fake news is a problem, but it’s not a huge problem.”

That being said, hyper-partisan sources are still making noise around the French election, with individual stories claiming Macron is aligned with Islamic radicals driving over 100,000 engagements across social. So while the proportion of fake news present in French election coverage is less than that of the U.S. election, these controversial sites are still sparking plenty of interaction. 
Social Media Analytics
After the impact of fake news in the U.S. election, journalists are hyper-aware of the spread of fake news, and are taking more measures than ever to identify false information as soon as it’s published, and put a pin in fake stories with concrete facts.

CrossCheck is one such initiative, that’s banding together French media outlets to fact-check stories that are quickly spreading on social media. CrossCheck has partnered with NewsWhip, to help those journalists identify such stories, using our real-time content discovery tool, NewsWhip Spike. Paul discussed NewsWhip’s role in the initiative with Bloomberg anchor Emily Chang on May 5.

“Where our technology comes in is that we’re really good at spotting content as soon as it starts to trend,” said Paul, “So journalists can then spot something very early on. The instance of the first big fake story about the French candidate Macron saying he was being financed by Saudi Arabia was spotted by a journalist within an hour of it starting to break on social media, and they were able to stick a pin in it very quickly.”
Social Media Monitoring

A story from a known French fake news site predicted to drive 1,700 engagements in NewsWhip Spike.

With 37 newsrooms involved in the CrossCheck initiative, it’s clearer than ever that concentration on the issue isn’t fading soon. But can fake news really be stopped? Paul said that the advent of fake news is due in part to the hunger for it from consumers — which is much more difficult to battle.

For example, if we look to which sites drove the most average engagement per story in the lead up to the U.S. election, we see that hyper-partisan site IJR.com beat out traditional media outlets by a huge portion of engagements — a testament to the appetite their readers have for the stories they produce.Social Media Analytics
“It’s hard because people have predispositions to liking certain kinds of stories, and if you have a certain opinion of certain politicians and you’re being fed a diet from particular websites that confirms your worldview every day, you’re going to want more of that. So people are kind of opting into fake news a little bit — it’s hard for the platforms, because they are developing algorithms that serve you the stuff you want,” Paul said. 

With Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms made by design to show users more of what they interact with, breaking audiences out of their filter bubbles is no easy feat. But filter bubbles don’t just apply to audiences — the U.S. election, and now the French election, are showing us that mainstream media outlets should be aware of what audiences are consuming, and use social media to keep a pulse on what readers are thinking.

“I think one thing that’s important is that journalists and people in media are able to step outside their own filter bubbles, and see what stories are trending in the worlds they’re not normally a part of,” Paul said. 

“Throughout 2016 we saw on our platforms that Trump content was getting 2x every month the amount of interactions that content around Hillary Clinton was getting. So it was a huge groundswell, all on websites that probably the New York Times or Washington Post had never heard of until November 9th,” Paul added. 
Social Media Analytics

Trump-related stories consistently drove more engagement (nearly 2x more) than Clinton in the lead up to the U.S. election. Data from NewsWhip Analytics.

NewsWhip is continuously to helping initiatives like CrossCheck fight fake news, and is using social technology to mobilize journalists with the information they need to stop the spread of misinformation before it starts.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. CrossCheck is about the truth getting its boots on faster,” Paul said.

We recently published our latest whitepaper, with more insights like these on the rise of hyper-partisan publishers, and the role fake news played in social engagement in the lead up to the U.S. election. You can download the whitepaper here.

Download our newest whitepaper: The Rise of Hyper-Partisan Publishers  


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Benedict Nicholson

In addition to leading the NewsWhip Research Center in New York, Benedict Nicholson manages partnerships with internationally recognized media outlets furthering data journalism, which includes NewsWhip’s Data for Democracy program. Benedict also facilitates consultations with communicators from the top 10 public relations agencies across America and Europe and with Fortune 500 brands to discuss consumer engagement trends and effective media monitoring. Email Benedict via benedict.nicholson@newswhip.com.

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