Real Talk About Fake News: Identity Language and Disconnected Networks of the US Public's "Fake News" Discourse on Twitter

Jianing Li, Min-Hsin Su
2020 Social Media + Society  
This article studies "fake news" beyond the consumption and dissemination of misinformation and disinformation. We uncover how the term "fake news" serves as a discursive device for ordinary citizens to consolidate group identity in everyday political utterances on Twitter. Using computational linguistic and network analyses, we demonstrate that over the period of 2016–2018, there is an uptrend in the use of identity language in US Twitter users' discussions about "fake news," manifested by the
more » ... increased frequency of group pronouns in combination with issues and sentiments that boost one's ingroup and derogate the outgroup. Furthermore, as opposed to the conventional wisdom that "fake news" is a right-wing term, we uncover two disconnected retweet networks surrounding liberal and conservative opinion leaders. Like-minded individuals selectively amplify ingroup messages to claim the power to define falsehood and make group-serving blame attributions. We discuss the theoretical implications of our findings and offer new directions for future research on "fake news," misinformation, and disinformation.
doi:10.1177/2056305120916841 fatcat:36ktjvxkm5cczncksl53sacnou