Fake News Less Worrying Than Brexit Party's Diatribe

The elections the UK was never due to hold to send politicians to a place it wants to leave are due to happen on Thursday, and all the talk is of fake news and fact checking as the Brexit Party appears to have come from nowhere to "win" social media.

But are the bots the biggest enemy of the full truth?

It may seem rather ironic to elect MEPs the Government is hoping will never have to take their seats. However, the process is all part of kicking the Brexit can down the alley until Thursday's ultimate embarrassment is visited upon the Government and partially, the Labour Party, for failing to agree that a deal that could get through parliament. 

As all eyes turn on fact-checkers, common sense may well be wondering whether bots are the real enemy here, or people spouting one version of a partial truth. 

TheBBC reveals today that only a tiny proportion of social traffic is what it terms "junk news" -- the type of opinion repeatedly spouted by a bot until it is closed down. Although the volume of such posts is a small proportion -- roughly 4% of news posts -- there is a problem that they are four times as likely to be liked on Facebook as a piece of news from a reputable outlet.

So there is a problem there, but it is arguable that it is nothing compared to the issue of people continually pumping out one-sided "facts" that have an element of truth and so are not completely fake news, but neither are they balanced opinions or news reporting.

When Wired reported on political posts in Facebook Pages, in the run-up to Thursday's election, the figures from London-based social consultancy 89up showed the staggering lead the Brexit Party has taken in just the past few weeks. 

Coming from nowhere, the analysis showed the party received 125,000 shares on the 1.5m pages scanned. This compared to 26,000 for the Conservative party with the opposition parties trialing with fewer than 6,000 shares each. Now, it is arguable that many shares for the main parties were not counted because they predated the current election phase. However, the figures clearly show the mood of the country in the run up to the EU elections that were never supposed to happen. 

As such, the figures also back up the shock polling forecasts showing the Brexit Party, which didn't exist just a few months ago, is way out in the lead and expected to get a third of votes cast on Thursday. The ruling Conservative party are due to take a ballot box beating with just half the share of votes the Brexit Party is expected to receive. The opposition Labour party is not expected to fare much better.

It is likely, then, that given that fake or junk news is a low proportion of traffic and shares on social that the real issue is this constant pushing out of a one-sided diatribe of half-truths is really behind the country's electoral woes.

We all know there are forceful arguments behind each side's arguments on Brexit, but social is doing little to discuss these.

Social media is not a place for a debate, and the thousands of shares and reactions on the Brexit Party's Facebook page show how just plugging away taps into and builds an audience of people that probably already thought like you anyway.

Needless to say, the Brexit Party posts are all about the country being betrayed as the two main parties that promised to honour the referendum result have done anything but. There is, of course, no mention of a red bus with the biggest political lie most of us can ever remember, suggesting how much taxpayer money that goes to the EU could instead be spent on the NHS.

They are also rather quiet on the funding of the party and their leader, which is to be investigated by the Electoral Commission. 

Nor is there a mention about the Leave.EU campaign facing criminal charges of illegal funding. That is particularly relevant because Aaron Banks, who is central to the illegal funding accusations, has been shown by Channel 4 to be bankrolling Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader.

The channel has been rewarded for its scoop by being barred from Brexit Party events. 

So there you have it -- the biggest, stickiest content on social isn't necessarily fake news, but drip-feeding of one side of the argument. The trouble is, it's working really well.

Forget the bots for a moment -- a diatribe of posts about traitors from real people who mean it and real users who are taken in is the real danger here.

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