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23 Jun 2020

Campaign Coverage in the Crosshairs: Why Combating Fake News is a Top Priority as Voters Consider Political Candidates

In the month before the 2016 U.S. election, fake and conspiracy news publishers unleashed more than 6.6 million tweets on potential voters, according to research conducted by the Knight Foundation. And that wasn’t the only source of disinformation at the time. After investigating Russia-backed activity during and after the 2016 election, Facebook’s prepared testimony to the Senate judiciary committee revealed that fake posts had reached 126 million Americans. The Knight Foundation’s research also reveals that more than 80% of the Twitter accounts responsible for spreading disinformation in 2016 continue to publish more than a million tweets a day.

Pre-election propaganda machines churn out misinformation

Despite efforts to curtail the spread of disinformation by social media platforms, experts predict a “tsunami” of questionable content in the run-up to the 2020 election. Combating fake news will become more challenging as November approaches—and not just because of international instigators. As the Columbia Journalism Review noted in an article last fall, “Given the Russians’ astonishing success in helping to boost Trump to the presidency, it was only a matter of time before there would be domestic imitators.” Democrats and Republicans began adopting those tactics by 2017, and both parties have continued to expand their use to this day. In just one month, the incumbent’s campaign spent between $1.3m and $3.8m on 5,883 different ads related to impeachment or Ukraine, according to analysis of the Facebook political ad archive conducted by The Guardian. And that was before the coronavirus pandemic began.

With state-by-state differences in social distancing rules, criss-crossing the country for campaign events isn’t feasible. But a quick look at social media provides plenty of evidence that that campaign trail hasn’t been abandoned, it has simply taken a virtual detour. With millions of Americans spending more time at home, political hopefuls have a captive audience: The New York Times notes that COVID-19 quarantining has led to a big increase in internet usage, including a 27% rise in Facebook traffic and a 15.3% rise in YouTube traffic.

News archives help with fact checking campaign rhetoric

Journalists and other media professionals will play an important role in separating the truth from fiction, particularly because social media platforms have struggled to come up with effective ways to halt the spread of deceptive claims and convincing deep fakes designed to mislead voters. So will members of the International Fact-Checking Network, like the Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact, and FactCheck.org, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Having access to deep news archives empowers media organizations in their fact-checking mission, but a manual search of a newspaper morgue won’t cut it in today’s 24/7/365 media landscape. In order to fact check on the fly, journalists, reporters and even late night talk show hosts need a faster way to access historical and current news and pinpoint critical information from among millions of documents. That’s where a research solution like Nexis® for Media Professionals proves invaluable.

The cloud-based platform connects journalists and media outlets to a world-leading database with powerful search filters to help narrow results to the most relevant information. With new content added continuously and an archive going back 40+ years, Nexis for Media Professionals covers a wide range of news content, including:

  • 1,200+ newspapers including 99 of the top 100 U.S. newspapers
  • 1,000 U.S. web news sites
  • 100+ newswires featuring press releases and near real-time coverage of breaking events
  • 6,000+ social media sources including topic blogs and social commentary from business, political and cultural leaders
  • 1,500+ magazines & trade journals
  • Broadcast transcripts from leading television and radio reporting, focused on politicians, business leaders and other public figures

Plus, the Nexis® News Search app for iOS or Android devices enables research when you’re on the road.

And the database isn’t limited to news. Nexis for Media Professionals also provides access to extensive company and executive information, legal data and other content that is just as useful for deep background research as it is for quick fact checks.

Do you have the right tools in your arsenal for combating fake news as campaign rhetoric heats up? Download the Nexis® overview brochure to learn more about this powerful platform for journalists, reporters and other media professionals.