Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Understanding the spread of fake news

Understanding the spread of fake news.
© European University Institute

In the attached article Pier Luigi Parcu (European University Institute) discusses the issues of disinformation and hate speech in digital media.


Since 2016, in the wake of the campaign for the EU referendum in the UK and the presidential election in the US, various researches have been launched to analyse the online diffusion of fake news, in particular through social media networks like Facebook or Twitter. While the circulation of false news and of misleading information is not a new phenomenon, the speed and scale reached through digital platforms has caught great attention. Research shows that ‘false news’ tend to spread more widely and rapidly than true ones. In addition, there has been an increase in the use of social bots, which produce content automatically and post on social media in order to manipulate information, spread rumours, and convey an impression of popularity of particular messages.

Hate speech

Pier Luigi Parcu also points out the threat of hate speech online:

Hate speech has become a common pattern of political propaganda, even in established democracies, targeting minorities, women, migrants, weaker elements of society, or simply the diversity of opinions. The phenomenon has been exacerbated by the relative anonymity that is allowed to the haters by the Internet. This creates an obvious reluctance from more reasonable and moderate voices to join any public debate on the Internet, thus immediately contributing to the further radicalisation and polarisation of the online debate.

Share your experience!

How do you react when you encounter disinformation or hate speech in social media? Do you think individuals can act against these or is public action needed?**

© European University Institute
This article is from the free online

Culture in the Digital Age

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education