Adapting to Mitigation Efforts: Evolving Strategies of Coordinated Link Sharing on Facebook
19 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2021
Date Written: December 29, 2020
In the context of a larger study on the spread of COVID-19 related mis/disinformation in Italy, we detected a network of 26 Facebook Pages that performed Coordinated Link Sharing. The potential reach of the network is significant, with a cumulative subscriber count close to 6 million users. Each month, the network publishes more than 18,000 posts. Half of the posts are type photos (64%), followed by status (22%) and links (14%). However, one third of the photos include links in the message/description of the post. The goal of the network is to drive traffic to the howtodofor.com domain, a news source that, according to NewsGuard, fails to meet several basic journalistic standards and republished articles from other media without mentioning the original source. The network is organized in different clusters that, beside various forms of links pointing to the main domain, also post the same image macros at approximately the same time. These types of posts tend to perform better in terms of volume of interaction received. Beside the obvious economic driver, one specific cluster also appears to be ideologically motivated. Over the year, the network experimented with different strategies aimed at maximizing the exposure of their content and, possibly, sidestepping Facebook’s community standard. Starting in March, a growing number of the links shared are posted in the first comment of click-bait posts (either photos or status). More recently, the network also started posting links to well-respected journalistic news sources such as La Repubblica and La Stampa.
Keywords: facebook, coordinated behavior, coornet
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