Junk News and Bots during the German Federal Presidency Election: What Were German Voters Sharing Over Twitter?

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 data on bot activity and junk news using a set of hashtags related to the German Federal Presidency Elections in February 2017. We find that (1) traffic about the far-right Alternative für Deutschland and their candidate Albrecht Glaser accounted for a surprisingly large portion of Twitter activity given their share of voter support. (2) Overall, the impact of political bots was minor, with highly automated accounts generating a small fraction of the Twitter traffic about the election. (3) Social media users in Germany shared many links to political news and information, and the ratio of professional news to junk news shared by German Twitter users was 4 to 1.

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