Dec 05 2018

Turkish fake news drowns out Russian disinformation attempts - scholar

Many argue it helped Donald Trump on his way to the U.S. Presidency and played an influential role in the referendum that voted yes to Brexit, but a research project has found that Russia’s extensive disinformation activity has little impact on Turkey.

However, the results are apparently nothing to be too happy about for Turks: the reason Russia’s attempts to influence Turkish politics have failed is that the country’s media sphere is already saturated with fake news, computational conflict researcher Akın Ünver told guests at a roundtable on disinformation organised by the Istanbul-based think tank EDAM.

“So heavy is the noise that creating extra noise is making little impact in people's exposure to real facts,” EDAM chairman Sinan Ülgen tweeted during Ünver’s talk.

A slide from the talk lists motivations for Russia’s involvement in Turkey, including its geographic location “between Western and Russian security orbit” and “at the intersection of Russian military operations in Ukraine, Syria, Caucasus and the Aegean.”

Other contributions to the roundtable included a talk by economist Can Selcuki on polarisation and Turkish media consumption. The polarisation in Turkey runs so deep that it barely makes fake news necessary, Selcuki found.

A slide from his talk showed that just 3.5 percent of readers of popular newspapers were prepared to listen to news stories reported in newspapers that represent opposing political views.

The December 5 roundtable also included talks by journalists and academics including Financial Times’ Turkey correspondent Laura Pitel, Middle East Studies scholar Marc Owen Jones, and the Economist’s Turkey correspondent Piotr Zalewski.