Oxford Group Behind Russian Disinformation Report Was Also Behind Study Labeling Conservative News Outlets 'Junk News'

Oxford University / Getty Images
December 18, 2018

A new Oxford University study arguing Russian actors used social media platforms to help elect President Donald Trump was conducted by the same group behind a flawed study that claimed Trump supporters share the most fake news on social media.

An Oxford University working paper released Monday, titled, "The IRA, Social Media and Political Polarization in the United States, 2012-2018," analyzed millions of social media posts–including words, images and videos– and how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency (IRA) used the posts to target specific segments of Americans to influence the 2016 election and various other political stories, the Washington Post reported. The IRA has been charged by U.S. officials for interfering in the 2016 election. The report has been provided to the Senate Senate Intelligence Committee for their investigation into Russian interference. The Senate committee hasn't endorsed the report.

The study was conducted by Oxford University Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, the same groups behind a flawed study released in February that claimed Trump supporters share the most fake news and labeled conservative news outlets "junk news."

Newsbusters was first to flag that the two organizations partnered up on both projects, with Oxford professor Philip N. Howard and Graphika CEO John W. Kelly working on both.

The Free Beacon previously reported about the flawed methodology of the study labeling mainstream conservative news outlets as "junk news."

Contrary to the claim that conservatives are sharing the most fake news, the study proves nothing other than finding conservatives tend to share conservative media online.

Philip N. Howard, Vidya Narayanan, Bence Kollanyi, and Lisa-Maria Neudert of Oxford University wrote the six-page study, along with Vlad Barash and John Kelly who work for Graphika, a social media startup that "provides the context needed to make strategic business decisions."

The new report argues Russian interference was meant to benefit Trump.

"What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump," the report states. "Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting."

The report also found Russia continued to publish messages to help Trump while in office and tried to exploit divisions within the country during the 2016 campaign. For example, they attempted to energize conservatives with ads about immigration and guns while attempting to undermine black voters' trust in the electoral system in order to depress turnout.