The modest impact of ‘fake news’ on the 2018 Italian elections

A Brussels-based NGO monitored the 2018 Italian election campaign and concluded that “fake news” was relatively rare. EURACTIV.com looks into the story as part of the “Fact or Fake” series, in partnership with France 24.

What was the influence of “fake news” during the last elections in Italy? This is the question that EU Disinfo Lab, an NGO based in Brussels, tried to answer when it published an analysis of the most widely shared content on social networks during the elections.

The good news is that “fake news” was relatively rare, according to the report, which nevertheless draws attention to two examples.

The first is a video of a migrant filmed on a train during a check, supposedly without a valid ticket. The video quickly went viral on Facebook but the Italian train company, Trenitalia, subsequently published a rebuttal: in fact, the man did have a ticket, he was just sitting in the wrong seat. And his explanation on the video appears confused because he doesn’t speak Italian.

The second example involves a fake story which claimed that a substantial number of ballot papers had been discovered in Sicily as part of a ballot-stuffing operation in favour of the centre-left Democratic Party. The fake story was quickly exposed on social media but it still attracted a lot of attention on the election day.

However, apart from these two examples, the authors of the report make a relatively positive assessment: according to them, “fake news” did not have an overwhelming influence on the Italian elections.

That being said, the electoral campaign as such was marked by furious controversies on immigration, especially after a shooting in the small town of Macerata, where black people were shot by a far-right supporter. These controversies were widely reported in the press and social media and fuelled clashes between far-right supporters and anti-fascist groups in Italy.

‘Fact or Fake’ is a programme developed in partnership with France 24 as part of the weekly show Talking Europe

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