Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

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.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us