Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Swedes eat 'junk news' diet ahead of vote

  • Election poster in Malmo, Sweden: Vote to be held on Sunday, 9 September (Photo: EUobserver)

Swedish voters are consuming much more "junk news" than other Europeans ahead of their elections, a new study has said.

Very little of it comes from Russia, despite Moscow's election-meddling track record, the analysis, by a research institute at Oxford University in the UK, out on Thursday (6 September), added.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The ratio of professional news to junk news shared on Swedish social media was 2:1 in a sample period of 8 August to 17 August, the report said.

This was the same as in the US election in 2016, when the populist Donald Trump won power, but the junk news ratios in recent UK (4:1), French (5:1), and German elections (7:1), were much lower.

"For every two links of professional news content shared, Swedish users shared one junk news story ... this was the largest proportion of junk news across all the European elections we have studied," the Oxford Internet Institute said.

It classified "junk news" as content that lacked professionalism and credibility, used emotionally-driven language, showed political bias, or mimicked normal news outlets via counterfeit methods.

"These sources deliberately publish misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news about politics, economics or culture. This content includes various forms of propaganda and ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan or conspiratorial news and information," it said.

Meanwhile, eight out of the top-10 most shared junk sites were native Swedish ones.

Three of these - Samhallsnytt, Nyheteridag, and Fria Tider - accounted for 86 percent of junk content shared, while Russian sites accounted for just 0.2 percent.

The findings come despite warnings by Swedish politicians and security services that Moscow had planned to interfere in the vote, as it did in the US, France, and Germany, to help divisive parties, like the far-right Sweden Democrats, do well in order to weaken Europe.

"We see that Russia has an intention to influence individual issues that are of strategic importance ... we can expect attempts at Russian influence," Daniel Stenling, a Swedish counter-intelligence officer said in February, for instance.

Native problem

The native junk news, which focused on "polarising" content, might still help the Sweden Democrats, which, in any case, produced more actively shared content on social media than any other Swedish party ahead of Sunday's vote.

The party's own material accounted for 14 percent of "high frequency tweets" in the sample period, compared to 11 percent by the centre-left Social Democrats and just 5 percent by the centre-right Moderate party.

One reason for the popularity of extremist content, the Oxford institute said, was the nature of the artificial intelligence or software used by Twitter.

"During times of heightened public interest, social media algorithms repeatedly promote conspiracy content over accurate information," they said.

In what amounted to better news for Swedish democracy, the study also found that 47 percent of the material shared "was general content, as opposed to party specific content".

Real debate

This meant that social media debate in Sweden was more about issues than about political blocs talking internally to reinforce their own views.

The proportion of general content shared in the recent French elections was 26 percent and in the German ones 29 percent.

At the same time, if the Twitter conversation was an index of the likely outcome of the vote, then a centre-left coalition is more likely to emerge than a centre-right one.

The left coalition (the Left Party, the Green Party, and the Social Democratic Party) dominated the sample Twitter conversation with 67,907 "relevant mentions and hashtags" out of the 274,953 tweets in the data set.

The right coalition (the Centre Party, the Moderate Party, the Liberal Party, and the Christian Democratic Party) had just 40,871 tweets, however.

Overseas votes could swing Sweden election result

Sweden heads for a hung parliament after Sunday's election, which saw support for the nationalist Sweden Democrats surge. With just 30,000 votes between the two blocs, votes cast abroad to be counted on Wednesday could still make the difference.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us