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The spread of fake news following terrorist attacks

20 June 2017

'Fake News' written in code

How fake news spreads on social media in the aftermath of major terrorist attacks and what the police can do to manage its impacts upon public behaviours will be analysed for the first time by researchers at Cardiff University.

Led by the University’s Crime and Security Research Institute, the new research will look at rumours, conspiracy theories, ideological propaganda and fake news on social media in the wake of terrorist attacks including the murder of Jo Cox MP in the context of the wider Brexit referendum campaign and the 2017 Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge attacks.

Social media communications from police forces will also be analysed by the team along with material issued by the police to manage misinformation.

The previously unexamined data will help researchers understand how fake news travels in the aftermath of major crime and security events and how digital platforms and environments shape contemporary behaviours.

“Political and public concern about the spread of fake news”

Results from the study will be used to help police design and deliver improved social media communication strategies that reduce community tensions and risks of public disorder in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Working with members of the National Counter-Terrorism Network the insights will shape future policy and practice for a rapidly developing information environment.

Professor Martin Innes, Director of the University’s Crime and Security Research Institute who will lead the research said: “Recently there has been growing political and public concern about the spread of fake news and propaganda via social media and the internet, and lots of suggestions about how to tackle this new social problem...”

“By rigorously studying how rumours and conspiracy theories emerge and ‘travel’ in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and other highly charged situations, our project will produce robust, independent, research evidence and insights about how and why some ‘soft facts’ are so influential upon public attitudes and opinion.”

Professor Martin Innes Co-Director (Lead) of the Security, Crime and Intelligence Innovation Institute

The project is one of eight funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), led by Lancaster University, to address some of the security threats facing the UK.

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