Sources Shared on Twitter: A Case Study on Immigration

Source: Pew Research Center

An analysis of 9.7 million tweets reveals that news organizations played the largest role in which content was linked to compared with other information providers

As news organizations battle charges of “fake news,” compete with alternate sources of information, and face low levels of trust from a skeptical public, a new Pew Research Center study suggests that news outlets still play the largest role in content that gets shared on Twitter, at least when it comes to one contentious issue in the news: immigration.

The study, which aimed to better understand the types of information sources that users on one popular social media platform may see about a major national policy issue, finds that news organizations play a far larger role than other types of content providers, such as commentary or government sites. During the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency, roughly four-in-ten of the 1,030 most linked-to sites in immigration-related tweets (42%) were outlets that purport to do original reporting – what the study refers to as the News Organizations category. And the prominent role these sites played becomes even greater when looking at the frequency with which they were shared: Fully 75% of the tweets during this time period linked to News Organizations.

The study also finds little clear evidence that “fake news” sites were a major factor in the information stream on Twitter around immigration. Overall, just 2% of the sites catalogued in the study appeared on at least one of three external lists of “fake news” sites, and the vast majority of sites classified as News Organizations were established at least a year before the 2016 election, suggesting they were not created solely for influence during the election.

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