Junk News and Bots during the French Presidential Election (Round I)

Computational propaganda distributes large amounts of misinformation about politics and public policy over social media platforms. The combination of automation and propaganda can significantly impact public opinion during important policy debates, elections, and political crises. We collected Twitter data on bot activity and junk news using a set of hashtags related to the French Presidential Elections for a week in March 2017. (1) Content about Macron tended to dominate the traffic on Twitter, but highly automated accounts occasionally generated large amounts of traffic about Hamon. (2) These automated accounts generate a small amount of content about French politics, though this amount is increasing over time. (3) Social media users in France shared many links to high quality political news and information, roughly at ratio of 2 links to professionally produced news for every link to other kinds of sources. (4) In comparison to our study of similar trends in the US and Germany, we find that French users are sharing better quality information than what many US users shared, and almost as much quality news and information as German users share.

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