According to a new study from the University of Oxford that examined “Junk News Consumption,” numerous conservative news outlets were disparaged as “unprofessional,” “counterfeit,” “biased,” and “emotionally driven.”
The study, part of the Computational Propaganda Research Project, was ostensibly supposed to ascertain “what kinds of social media users read junk news?” These criteria were used to ascertain whether the sites offered “junk news”:
Professionalism: These outlets do not employ the standards and best practices of professional journalism. They refrain from providing clear information about real authors, editors, publishers and owners. They lack transparency, accountability, and do not publish corrections on debunked information.
Style: These outlets use emotionally driven language with emotive expressions, hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, misleading headlines, excessive capitalization, unsafe generalizations and fallacies, moving images, graphic pictures and mobilizing memes.
Credibility: These outlets rely on false information and conspiracy theories, which they often employ strategically. They report without consulting multiple sources and do not employ fact-checking methods. Their sources are often untrustworthy and their standards of news production lack credibility.
Bias: Reporting in these outlets is highly biased and ideologically skewed, which is otherwise described as hyper-partisan reporting. These outlets frequently present opinion and commentary essays as news.
Counterfeit: These outlets mimic professional news media. They counterfeit fonts, branding and stylistic content strategies. Commentary and junk content is stylistically disguised as news, with references to news agencies, and credible sources, and headlines written in a news tone, with bylines, date, time and location stamps.
The study’s results suggest that the authors might have had a tiny bit of bias; the study stated, “On Twitter, the Trump Support Group shares 95% of the junk news sites on the watch list, and accounted for 55% of junk news traffic in the sample. Other kinds of audiences shared content from these junk news sources, but at much lower levels. On Facebook, the Hard Conservative Group shares 91% of the junk news sites on the watch list, and accounted for 58% of junk news traffic in the sample.”
The study also seemed surprised that conservatives don’t get their news from “mainstream media sources.” It stated:
The social networks mapped from public Twitter and Facebook data show that the junk political news and information was concentrated among Trump’s supporters. The two main political parties, Democrats and Republicans, prefer different sources of political news, with limited overlap. For instance, the Democratic Party shows high levels of engagement with mainstream media sources and the Republican Party with Conservative Media Groups.