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Junk news sites with unknown names such as Trendnieuws and Viraal Vandaag reach millions of Dutch people thanks to their Facebook pages. Messages from those pages are much more often shared and liked than messages from pages from well-known news media such as De Telegraaf, NOS and NU.nl. This is shown by research by Nieuwscheckers and the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS).
More than 5 million Dutch Facebook users have at least once liked, shared or commented on a post from a junk news site on Facebook. Junk news is news of low journalistic quality, coming from unknown providers, and with sensational content and clickbait headlines. Junk sites often copy other sources, do not perform their own research, and do not fact check.
Goal - Junk - News - Money - Advertisements
The goal of junk news sites is to make as much money as possible from advertisements. The more clicks to their website, the more income from advertisements. Facebook pages are crucial for these sites: these pages enable the sites to bring their messages to the attention of the public. These messages are not always innocent, warns Nieuwscheckers researcher Peter Burger in de Volkskrant: 'The flow of pulp is also letting in potentially harmful messages, such as misleading health tips or malicious propaganda against certain social groups.
In their research, Nieuwscheckers made use of data science for the first time. Assistant professor Suzan Verberne explains how this came about. 'When my colleague Wessel Kraaij read a university news item on Nieuwscheckers in June 2017, he wondered...
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