Investigating Italian disinformation spreading on Twitter in the context of 2019 European elections

Pierri, Francesco; Artoni, Alessandro; Ceri, Stefano
Computer Science

We investigate the presence (and the influence) of disinformation spreading on online social networks in Italy, in the 5-month period preceding the 2019 European Parliament elections. To this aim we collected a large-scale dataset of tweets associated to thousands of news articles published on Italian disinformation websites. In the observation period, a few outlets accounted for most of the deceptive information circulating on Twitter, which focused on controversial and polarizing topics of debate such as immigration, national safety and (Italian) nationalism. We found evidence of connections between Italian disinformation sources and different disinformation outlets across Europe, U.S. and Russia, featuring similar, even translated, articles in the period before the elections. Overall, the spread of disinformation on Twitter was confined in a limited community, strongly (and explicitly) related to the Italian conservative and far-right political environment, who had a limited impact on online discussions on the up-coming elections.