The Technical Fabric of ‘fake news’ sites: Diagnosing ‘Fake News’ Sites based on their Technological Infrastructure

Team Members

Coordinators: Erik Borra, Liliana Bounegru

Team: Livia Benders, Brittany Davidson, Maurits Heumann, Helmut Hönigmayer, Michele Invernizzi, Tove Oegema, Mariasilvia Poltronieri, Anne Por, Julius Uusikylä, Wisanne van 't Zelfde, Erik van Zummeren, Ingrid Woudwijk


The fake news or misleading political information phenomenon has received a lot of attention in the wake of the US election results. There is currently a debate over the role that “fake news” has played in the US political campaigns as well as in the results of the presidential election (Silverman, 2016, Beckett, 2016, Rutenberg, 2016). Some reactions focused on the content of these websites and multiple fact-checking initiatives have been set up to debunk fake news, albeit with little success (Borel, 2017). Other commentators have pointed towards the relationship between fake news websites and social media and towards the economic underpinnings of these websites as drivers of the misleading political information phenomenon (Albright, 2016). Several attempts have been made to define and classify spheres of misleading information based on the nature of the content which they circulate as well as perceptions of this content throughout its production and circulation (Wardle, 2016, Giglietto, Iannelli, Rossi and Valeriani, 2017).

This project aims to contribute to the debate pertaining to diagnosing the “fake news” and misinformation phenomena more broadly by investigating the technical infrastructure of the websites producing and circulating such content. More specifically the focus is on the linking patterns of these websites as well as their tracker signatures.

Research questions

  • Can we detect and profile “fake news” spheres for European languages?

  • How can we diagnose fake news websites based on their social media engagement patterns, linking patterns and tracker signatures?

Analysis and results

See slides of final presentation:
Topic revision: r1 - 13 Jan 2017, liliana
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