Alternative News Sites Could Swing French Election

Press Release

One in four links shared in France about the country’s upcoming presidential elections are from sources that help promote ‘fake news’, according to a study published today by social media intelligence company Bakamo social.

“In a fiercely contested political campaign where the two leading candidates are less than a percentage point apart, increased exposure to sites that spread falsehoods, conspiracy theories, pro-Russian propaganda and racist views could prove a decisive factor,” said Jonathan Deitch, Bakamo CEO.

In compiling The Role and Impact of Non-Traditional Publishers in the French Elections 2017, the company analyzed nearly 8 million links shared from 800 sites in five months of political campaigning between 1 November 2016 and 4 April 2017.

Analysts found that social media users are increasingly divided by the type of links that they share, with a complete disconnect between users who share political news from traditional media sources and those who share sources which challenge traditional narratives. The report maps the social media sphere by dividing online publishers into five groups:

  • Traditional (48.2% of links shared): These are the online presences of news sources distributed via traditional media (newspapers, radio, television), that ascribe to principles of journalistic ethics, which generally include the seeking truth, accuracy, impartiality, and remaining independent from the state. 
  • Campaign (7.4% of links shared): These are official party or candidate sources. 
  • Extend (20.2% of links shared): Sites which serve to offer greater perspective and detail on areas covered by the traditional media, without disputing basic facts.  
  • Reframe (19.2% of links shared): Media sources that take issue with Traditional media sources for not drawing the right conclusions or not emphasising the right stories. These sources “reframe” the story, typically through selective reporting or re-interpretation and disagree on both the facts and the interpretation offered by traditional media.  
  • Alternative (5% of links shared): Sites beyond the left/right divide. These sources intermingle stories and largely ignore Traditional sources. Confusing and often conspiratorial narratives are on view in this Sector.

“While traditional media still accounts for roughly half of French political news shared, we found that those who challenge traditional media share nearly twice as much content and have a far more engaged audience,” said Deitch. “This suggests the alternative news industry is not going to go away.”

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