This study examines the how U.S. President Donald Trump's false claims have affected the truthfulness of French politicians' statements — and how political news coverage has adjusted in both countries. Based on semi-structured interviews with reporters, fact-checkers and editors, the author found that journalists have largely struggled to come up with sustainable ways to address repeated falsehoods — which interviewees agreed had risen in both France and the U.S. in recent years. Pervasive lying has disrupted the traditional relationship between sources and reporters, making it harder for journalists to tell true from false. Trump’s ascension and Marine Le Pen’s campaign also caused much hand-wringing over which words to use when citing falsehoods in news articles, with American publications using “lie” more often than French counterparts.
In one of the first quantifications of fake news in Europe, the authors found that, in France and Italy, users generally spend less time on selected fake news websites than they do on those of genuine media outlets. The report, which analyzed popular fake news sites identified by fact-checking organizations using comScore and CrowdTangle, found that mainstream news organizations accrue significantly more time spent on their stories than fake news outlets. But on Facebook, the situation is a little less clear; researchers found that the interactions generated by a small number of fake news met or exceeded those generated by the most popular news brands in France and Italy.
Researchers surveyed French individuals online in four regions where the far-right Front National party (FN) had done best in the 2016 regional elections. Respondents were put into one of four groups; the first received false claims on immigration made by Marine Le Pen, the FN's presidential candidate and the second obtained statistics on the same issues. The other two groups were given both or neither, respectively. Across all groups, the researchers tested respondents' understanding of the facts, their support for Le Pen on immigration and their voting intentions. Overall, knowledge of the facts was negatively affected when respondents only read Le Pen's claims but improved when they were offered the facts alone or both the facts and Le Pen's claims. More surprisingly, the intention to vote for Le Pen improved not just among respondents subjected to her claims but also among respondents who were offered the facts alone.