Manon Berriche and Benjamin Tainturier : A scientific way to identify the “public debate polluters”

Manon Berriche and Benjamin Tainturier, PHD Candidates at SciencesPo Medialab, presented a scientific method to identify and characterize people who are sharing fake news online, particularly on Twitter. They showed that very few users share fake news and that they generally come from the far right.

By Marie-Aimée COPLEUTRE et Clara GUILLARD

Manon Berriche et Benjamin Tainturier. ©BenoitDurocq
  • The phenomenon of misinformation has raised a lot of question but fake news sharers are often caricatured as dumb or irrationnal people, Berriche said. So, we need a method to know them more.
  • The method analyzes the ideological position of fake news sharers by looking, among other things, at MP’s they follow.
  • Sharing fake news is rare: across more than 3 million Twitter accounts, only 0.0009 % of them are sharing fake news. The main « polluters » of the public space and debate are heavily concentrated on the far right.

Twitter can be a research field: this is the bet of Manon Berriche and Benjamin Tainturier, PHD candidates at SciencesPo Medialab. With the issue of vaccination, the pandemic period raises a lot of concern on fake news, as it multiplies on the internet. But, in the media or in the public space in general, people who are sharing fake news are often portrayed as dumb or irrationnal people, which is not scientifically satisfaying.

In order and characterize these fake news sharers in a more nuanced way, the two speakers studied them on Twitter. And their study revealed that sharing fake news is very rare: over more than 3 million of twitter accounts, only 0.0009 % of them are sharing fake news. Moreover, by observing their ideology, they concluded that fake news sharers are tremendously concentrated at the far-right. They identified a group of 30 highly politicized people, whom they qualified as « polluters » of the public space.

But Berriche and Tainturier agree that there is a need for finer-grained analysis to go beyond ideological patterns and to explore more complex characteristics of these fake news sharers. The issue is crucial, as questions discussed online can emerge then on the political discussion.


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