fake news left/right

Claim made by: Jeff Green, CEO, Trade Desk
Location: BBC trending
Spotted on: 2017-04-15

From BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-39592010

"It [fake news] affects both the right and the left. It affects educated and uneducated. So the stereotypes of it being simply right-wing and simply uneducated are 100% not true," says Jeff Green, who is the CEO of Trade Desk, an internet advertising company that was recently commissioned by American TV channel CBS to investigate who is reading and sharing fake news online.

His company did this by initially putting out two fake news stories - one from the left which falsely stated police had raided a protestors camp at Standing Rock and burnt it down, and the other from a right-wing website about false claims there was a congressional plot to oust Donald Trump.

By using specialist software, the company's researchers then followed readers' online behaviour to get an idea of who and where they were.

"On the left if you're consuming fake news you're 34 times more likely than the general population to be a college graduate," says Green.

If you're on the right, he says, you're 18 times more likely than the general population to to be in the top 20 percent of income earners.

And the study revealed another disturbing trend: the more you consume fake news, the more likely you are to vote. It's "fascinating and frightening at the same time," says Green.

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The claims here come from a CBS interview which I can't access. From what info is available on the research methods, I'm very sceptical of their conclusions. Putting two made-up articles out and then tracking how it's consumed/shared using 'specialist software' can't provide the data required to make the conclusions they have done without either a) breaking the law, b) making heavy assumptions about those being tracked, or c) making an ecological fallacy. Either way, it appears they are massively overstating the generalisability of their results based on the spread of just two articles.

It's bad form to assume this guy has conducted a methodlogically sound study without being able to scrutinise the research methods, especially as his company will benefit from the perception that many more people are susceptible to fake news than expected.

Update 2017-04-23

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