Junk news and democracy

Researchers are examining the quality of news shared on Twitter
Image caption Researchers are examining the quality of news shared on Twitter

Researchers at Oxford University have found that the quality of news available to British voters on Twitter is superior to that available to Americans ahead of the election of Donald Trump as president.

The Oxford Internet Institute has also discovered that there have been more tweets about Labour than other political parties so far in the campaign.

After the dramatic and tight races that led to Brexit and President Trump, there has been wild speculation about extremists, foreign powers, and wealthy individuals trying to use social media to degrade the truth and influence elections.

The early indications are that any such interference on Twitter doesn't match that which occurred in America last year.

"It's not as big of a problem as it was in the States," says researcher Monica Kaminska.

"We found that in the lead-up to the election, people are sharing quality news - news from professional news organisations - and that's 53% of the total content shared.

"Junk news has been around 13% - so a big difference there."

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Media captionThe growing generational divide in media consumption

The academics at Oxford don't speculate on why this might be, but likely factors include the vastly greater sums that are spent on American elections, and the fact much of the news shared on social media emanates from broadcasters - including the BBC - who are heavily regulated.

It is too soon to conclude, however, that enemies of British democracy have made no effort to influence the result on 8 June.

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