Facebook Pages: Elections and Misinformation

Before and after the Italian election on 4 March 2018, concerns were raised about the spread of misinformation, disinformation and inflammatory content through a network of news sites and Facebook pages.

In November 2017, in the run up to the election, Buzzfeed reported on links between a large network of Italian news websites (175 domain names) and Facebook pages owned by a media network company Web365 – that represents one of the most popular alternative media operations in Italy including DirettaNews and iNews24 with millions of likes, shares and followers. Buzzfeed reported that the content on the sites and pages ranged from “from viral clickbait and quick takes on the day’s headlines to misleading or alarmist stories about tragic events and hyperpartisan pieces about immigration that echo nationalist and Islamophobic rhetoric.” The New York Times reported on some examples, including a falsely captioned picture and a falsely translated video, noting that Facebook shut down the sites and planned to dispatch an Italian “task force” of fact checkers. 

Reporting also highlighted that  the leaders of the Five Star Movement and the League dominated Facebook traffic and secured 7.8 million Facebook likes and shares during the two-month campaign.  

Following the vote, the impact of social media and websites on the election was attributed in part to changes in the Italian media landscape, with a preference to alternative media sources.