I am pleased to announce that it has just been published “Understanding Coordinated and Inauthentic Link Sharing Behavior on Facebook in the Run-up to 2018 General Election and 2019 European Election in Italy”. This report is the first outcome of our research project funded by the Social Science Research Council in partnership with Facebook and Social Science One.
In the report we analyzed “coordinated inauthentic behavior”, a concept only briefly defined in Facebook public statements which we found useful to frame our research in the light of existing scientific literature.
Based on a combination of CrowdTangle API (a tool for accessing Facebook and other social media data) and two datasets of Italian political news stories published in the run-up to the 2018 Italian general election and 2019 European election, we developed a method that led to the identification of several networks of pages/groups/verified public profiles (“entities”) that shared the same political news stories on Facebook within a very short period of time (10 in 2018, composed of 28 entities, and 50 in 2019, composed of 143 entities). We called this behavior “coordinated link sharing”. You can find the R script to implement the method here.
By analyzing the social media profiles of such coordinated entities, we observed that while some of them were clearly political, others presented themselves as entertainment venues, despite sharing political content too. Since the political news stories shared by these non-political entities can reach a broad audience which is largely unguarded against attempts to influence, we describe their behavior as “inauthentic” (look at the following tweet to get an idea of what we mean by “inauthentic”).
We identified a total of 60 networks (171 pages/public groups) that shared the same political news story in a very short period of time. Of those 171 my personal favorite is a page called “Professione”. Can you spot the outsider in this recent sample of their timeline 👇 pic.twitter.com/nuR1z09EUy
— Fabio Giglietto 🇪🇺 (@fabiogiglietto) September 23, 2019
Our analyses showed that the news shared by the coordinated networks received a Facebook engagement higher than other news included in our dataset. Further analyses are needed to understand the impact of coordinated activities on engagement and public opinion.
We found also that much news boosted anti-immigration and far-right propaganda (primary League-friendly propaganda) and that several of the news outlets shared by these networks, as well as some of the Facebook pages involved in coordinated behavior, were already blacklisted by fact-checkers.