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Jan. 29, 2018, 1:49 p.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: www.journalism.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   January 29, 2018

Fake news and distrust in the media may be on the rise, but content from news outlets — particularly legacy ones — is still getting shared plenty on Twitter.

In an effort to determine what kinds of information sources people encounter on Twitter when reading about big policy issues, Pew Research analyzed 9.7 million immigration-focused tweets sent in the month following Donald Trump’s inauguration last year that linked to top news sources. Pew’s findings, which were published on Monday, suggest that news outlets — not commentary blogs, advocacy organizations, government sites, or fake news sites — are winning out when it comes to what’s most often shared when people talk about policy on Twitter.

One big finding: Out of the 1,030 most linked-to sites whose content was shared in immigration-related tweets, 42 percent were news organizations. (Pew defined news organizations as sites that “showed evidence of original reporting [such as interviews, eyewitness accounts or referral to source documents] in the top five most linked-to articles on Twitter during this time period and the top five articles on their homepage when coding.”) In contrast, 29 percent of the tweets linked to “other information providers” such as blogs and sites that don’t provide original reporting.

Breaking out that number, Pew found further good news for legacy news organizations, which were twice as likely to be linked to as digital-native orgs — 28 percent versus 14 percent. Overall, 75 percent of tweets about immigration contained links to news organizations. The New York Times (7 percent), The Hill (also 7 percent), CNN (4 percent), The Washington Post (4 percent), and Fox News (3 percent) topped the list of the most linked-to sites during this period, by share of tweets that linked to external sites.

Pew also offered some more insight into how much fake news sources factored into discussions about immigration on Twitter last year. The finding: not much. Only 18 sites — 2 percent — of the sites Pew encountered appeared on “fake news” lists maintained by BuzzFeed, FactCheck.org and Politifact.

As Pew Research itself points out, its findings don’t offer many big conclusions about who is sharing the news stories, or what influence the stories may have had on people belonging to different ideologies. But its findings do show that, while there’s a lot of concern about the proliferation of misinformation on social media, when using Twitter, people seem more likely to encounter real news than the fake kind.

Researchers Galen Stocking, Michael Barthel, and Elizabeth Grieco conclude:

While these findings do not directly address broader questions of “made-up” news sites’ ability to influence opinion among certain parts of the public, or the larger impact of the ease of publishing and promoting content on the web, they do help put the role of these types of entities and the implications of this environment into some perspective.

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