The BJP and Congress share similar volumes of “junk news” on Facebook and WhatsApp while SP and BSP share more professional news sources, Oxford University has found. A third of the BJP images shared on WhatsApp were “divisive and conspiratorial,” while a quarter of INC images and a tenth of SP-BSP images were, according to yesterday’s report.
Oxford Internet Institute researcher Vidya Narayanan said India “fits in between the US and Western Europe” when it comes to propaganda content. While they found one professional post for every junk news post in the US, they found the proportion was one to four in the UK and France and one to three in Sweden, she stated. “When we move away from Western Europe and the US, we see that propaganda is increasingly through user-generated content.”
With a dearth of academic research regarding WhatsApp, the researchers analysed 27,000 posts from 130 public Facebook pages and over 200 public WhatsApp groups between February 14 and April 10.
Underneath a broader umbrella of “divisive and conspiratorial content,” the researchers have coined the phrase “junk news.” They determined the “junk news” label based on professionalism, style, credibility, bias and counterfeit content. The researchers consciously avoided the phrase “fake news” because of how leaders such as Donald Trump have “co-opted” the phrase, Narayanan said.
“Sources of junk news deliberately publish misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news about politics, economics or culture. This content includes various forms of extremist, sensationalist, conspiratorial, masked commentary, fake news and other forms of junk news,” the report states.
In the WhatsApp images category, BJP shared almost 35 per cent of “divisive and conspiratorial” content, 18 per cent “campaign and support”, 10.5 per cent “nationalism and support for the army,” 3.5 per cent “religion”, and 3.5 per cent “satire”. Congress shared much more “campaign and support” content at 30 per cent and less “divisive and conspiratorial content” at 28.5 per cent. The Grand Old Party shared 9 per cent “satire” and less than 5 per cent for all other categories.
BSP-SP shared mostly “campaign and support” as well at 20.5 per cent, with 11.5 per cent “divisive and conspiratorial” content.” The alliance shared 7.5 per cent in “nationalism and army support” and less than four per cent in almost all other categories.
Most links on WhatsApp directed to other social media platforms and not political content, and therefore, the researchers did not examine them.
In the Facebook links category, 40 percent of BJP links were from professional news sources, while 28 per cent were “junk news”. For Congress, a third were professional and 21 per cent were “junk”. BSP and SP shared far more professional sources on Facebook at almost 60 per cent, with only one per cent “junk”.
In the Facebook images category, two-thirds of BJP images were “campaign and support” and a little over 12 per cent was “junk.” Congress had roughly 52 per cent “campaign and support” images and 14 per cent “junk”. BSP and SP had about 60 per cent “campaign and support” images and a little over 12 per cent “divisive and conspiratorial”. The researchers found no images that fit their classification of “hate, gore, or porn.”