The left-leaning news outlet founded by the left-leaning billionaire Michael Bloomberg used buzzwords such as “fake news” and “foreign meddling” in a report published on Thursday in Bloomberg which claimed that the current French presidential election is being heavily influenced by sources which are not “mainstream media” and elaborated on how Facebook is making a major push to stop the spread of what it deems could be false information.
Similar to President Trump’s appeal to those who no longer believe mainstream news sources, Marine Le Pen’s voters have also turned to other sources of information, especially social media. And those on the Left don’t like it at all.
“Historically, Le Pen supporters have been the most active and most organized on social networks — they feel mainstream media doesn’t give them a voice, so they’ve found alternatives to express themselves,” explained Jeremie Mani, chief executive officer of Netino by Webhelp, a firm that specializes in moderating online user comments. He noted that “140 characters is the perfect format for populism because it’s easier to criticize Europe in a few words than get into complicated demonstrations.”
“With more than 2.8 million followers on Twitter and Facebook, the anti-immigration, anti-euro National Front candidate dwarfs Macron, with just over 1 million followers,” the article asserts, as if Macron is at a disadvantage merely because he’s represented by the mainstream outlets.
“We see foreign meddling, people who offer their own version of the facts, and users who contest the veracity of reports by well-established media outlets,” said Jonathan Deitch, chief executive officer of “social listening” consulting firm BakamoSocial. He estimated that a “quarter of the links shared on social networks about the French elections probably point to fake news. The report, based on 8 million links from 800 sites between November and April, showed as many as 50 percent of sources of fake news were linked to Russian websites or accounts.”
After watching Trump’s supporters take on the well-established Clinton hierarchy, France’s political establishment started “expressing concerns that fake news might help propel Le Pen to a populist triumph months before the first round of the French vote on April 23.” According to the Bloomberg report, Le Pen “is Russia’s favorite in the race, with many Russian officials regarding Macron as the candidate most hostile to their country’s interests.”
Facing upcoming elections in Germany, the U.K. and Italy later this year, it is reported that “internet giants are keen not to have a re-run of the U.S. election, during which platforms were accused of swaying the election by failing to keep tabs on fake news stories.” In other words, they really want to control what people see on the internet. And, to that end, Facebook announced the launch of CrossCheck with Google News Lab in early February.
CrossCheck is being touted as a “collaborative journalism verification project that aims to help the public make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, web searches and general online news consumption in the coming months,” according to one report. “Facebook will also support CrossCheck through dedicated tools and media literacy efforts that will help to explain the verification process and keep relevant audiences up to date with confirmed and disputed information relating to the election.”
Having deleted approximately 30,000 “fake accounts,” Facebook has been “feeding users in France a variety of extras to help with fact-checking. The changes are aimed at “limiting the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content,” according to Facebook.
Well-established news publications, including Le Monde, Liberation, and Les Echos, have been fighting what they call “fake news” by offering readers tips on how to tell if a story is fake.
However, one tool which could prove helpful in comparing the campaign promises of the candidates became available to Facebook subscribers in April. “Perspectives” is filled out by the politicians themselves and provides “a scan-through of proposals by election candidates through 18 themes, from taxes to the environment, as defined by research lab Cevipof.”
In a telling conclusion, the Bloomberg report emphasized that “Facebook needs to prove it can stem the tide of bogus stories,” noting, “In the run-up to elections, the French tend to share more junk news online than the Germans, research from Oxford University has shown, but both share fewer fake news stories per person than U.S. voters [did] during the 2016 election.”
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