Coordinated Hateful Disinformation on Italian Politics and Social Issues, since 2017
34 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 1, 2021
In the context of a larger study on the spread of COVID-19 related mis/disinformation in Italy, we detected a network of 10 Facebook Pages that performed Coordinated Link Sharing. The potential reach of the network is significant, with a cumulative subscriber count close to 2 millions users. Each month, the network publishes more than 6,500 posts. The large majority of posts are links (83%), followed by status (8%) and photos (7%). However, 8 over 10 photos also include links in the message/description of the post. The current goal of the network is to drive traffic to the tg24-ore.com domain, a news source that, according to NewsGuard, fails to meet all the basic journalistic standards, is anonymous and publishes false news about health and partisan right-wing stories without disclosing their editorial line.The network has a long history of activity. It was spotted as performing coordinated link sharing behaviour on highly polarized and false political content in the lead-up to 2018 and 2019 Italian elections (see elections report). The report reconstructs the full list of different domains used by this network from 2017 on and points out to a brand new domain currently used (notiziariodelweb.com). Several of the domains shared by this network are featured in fact-checkers black-lists. 35 news stories posted by this network have been rated as false or misleading by Facebook’s Italian third-party fact-checker. Despite this, the posts linking to these 35 stories have been cumulatively viewed over six million times and clicked more than five hundred thousand times between 2017 and 2019 on Facebook. The domain howtodofor.com was also shared by this network. An analysis of the core Facebook network that shares this domain is available in the second report of this series. The network also serves as a paradigmatic example of how memes page can be repurposed to share highly problematic content as the content posted shifted suddenly from photos to links in the months preceding 2018 Italian general election. A diachronic analysis of the networks’ coordinated links sharing activities, clearly highlights an escalation of the operation that started immediately after the fall of the “yellow-green” government supported by a coalition of M5S and League. The activity further intensifies from the COVID-lockdown on.
Keywords: facebook, coordinated behavior, coornet
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