Methods of spreading misinformation and Russian influence on the French Presidential elections

Paris – Fake news has diminished in impact as the election reaches its climax, yet disinformation and Russian influence continue to spread via social media, according to a new study from Bakamo.

Bakamo CEO, Jonathan Deitch, said: “Our second report on the French election shows that social media users are increasingly sharing political news from traditional media and official campaign sources during the month of April. However, while the majority still place their trust in conventional media, a minority are still being fed a steady diet of disinformation and Russian propaganda from non-traditional publishers.”

The report, entitled Patterns of Disinformation in the 2017 French Presidential Election, shows that:

  • Nearly two-thirds of the links shared are from traditional news sources and the official candidate and party sites, an increase of over ten percentage points in April (versus the period from 1 November to the end of March).
  • About 20% of political stories shared in social media in April come from non-traditional sites that contest traditional journalism and thus represent the universe of possible publishers of misinformation. Of these, about 30% (7% of total links shared) come from sites that exhibit Russian influence.

Russian influence is defined in the study as republishing or referencing articles from sites such as the French version of RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik News as well as numerous other French-language Russian blogs.

The study reveals four disinformation techniques used by non-traditional media sources to appeal to readers and undermine traditional journalism. These include cloaking articles as if they were published by legitimate sites, reporting nonscientific polls, pulling articles out of historical context, and simple hoaxes. These methods exist alongside Russian narratives designed to attune French readers to messages that create sympathy for pro-Russian positions and the candidates who support them.

The analysis, which updates the data from Bakamo’s first report to cover the period between 1 November through 21 April, is based on nearly ten million links related to political and election news from the top 800+ sites shared in social media.

“Traditional news sources remain relevant and relied upon by social media users,” said Deitch. “Nevertheless, one in every five links still comes from sources that challenge the validity of the traditional media. Despite slightly less influence, these sites and their readers remain very active and show no signs of going away.”

ENDS

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Notes to Editors

The final report of the study, to be released in late June, will analyse the social media conversations around non-traditional sources in social media. Through this application of qualitative social listening methods, Bakamo will uncover people’s genuine perceptions about the content they share, why they share it, and what they hope to achieve by sharing it.

Bakamo’s micro-site devoted to the French presidential election is at http://bakamosocial.com/frenchelection.