The political impact of fake news


Recent political events, such as the controversial Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election of 2016, have led to a wave of interest in the phenomenon of fake news. This is because fake news is widely believed to have played a significant role in shaping the outcome of both political events.

Brexit referendum

In June 2016, the Conservative government of the United Kingdom initiated a referendum on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). The referendum passed by a narrow margin and the UK is due to leave the EU on 29th of March, 2019. The withdrawal is referred to as Brexit, short for “British exit”.

In the light of this event, research on fake news has increased and research methods were developed to better understand and capture the dynamic of online behaviour, especially the behaviour of voters.

Links between fake news and ideological polarisation were clearly observed during the Brexit referendum. Therefore, voters were polarised between those who wanted the UK to leave the EU and those who wanted the UK to remain. 

However, the spread of fake news was not facilitated only by the supporters of one side or the other. After analysing approximately 800,000 tweets associated with the United Kingdom referendum, media analysts uncovered a network of Twitter bots comprised of 13,493 accounts that tweeted about the referendum and u...

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