Russia Helped Shape Italy’s Twitter Obsession With Immigrants

Russia Helped Shape Italy’s Twitter Obsession With Immigrants

Social-media analysis shows influence of Russian websites Sputnik Italia fueled opposition to immigration last year Russian efforts to fuel alarm about immigration in Italy had an impact on voters last year, according to an analysis of social-media activity. Russia’s state-controlled news agency Sputnik Italia was the most influential foreign media organization attacking immigration in Italy and among the top 2 percent of all news sources cited in the online debate, Madrid-based Alto Data Analytics found. The company uses software similar to Google’s search algorithm to rank websites by the number and quality of their links. The company screened more than 1 million Italian-language posts from almost 100,000 social-media profiles between February and July 2017. People citing Sputnik were opposed to immigration 90 percent of the time, the company found, and often they were public, right-wing figures arguing that the country is suffering an “invasion” of foreigners. “Russian media are targeting decision-makers, not the general public,” said Marco Cacciotto, a political consultant and professor at the University of Turin. Italians go to the polls on Sunday with anti-immigration extremists of the Five Star Movement and the League threatening the pro-Europe mainstream. The Russian government has regularly denied meddling in other countries’ democratic processes. Outsized Presence Alto Data Analytics found that people opposed to immigration were far more prolific in their social-media posts than those in favor. Those in the anti-immigrant camp posted 22 times on average during the period, while those in favor made fewer than six comments.

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  • Social-media analysis shows influence of Russian websites
  • Sputnik Italia fueled opposition to immigration last year

Russian efforts to fuel alarm about immigration in Italy had an impact on voters last year, according to an analysis of social-media activity.

Russia’s state-controlled news agency Sputnik Italia was the most influential foreign media organization attacking immigration in Italy and among the top 2 percent of all news sources cited in the online debate, Madrid-based Alto Data Analytics found. The company uses software similar to Google’s search algorithm to rank websites by the number and quality of their links.

The company screened more than 1 million Italian-language posts from almost 100,000 social-media profiles between February and July 2017. People citing Sputnik were opposed to immigration 90 percent of the time, the company found, and often they were public, right-wing figures arguing that the country is suffering an “invasion” of foreigners.

“Russian media are targeting decision-makers, not the general public,” said Marco Cacciotto, a political consultant and professor at the University of Turin. “So the impact may be particularly strong.”

Russia has been accused of interfering with elections in the U.K., France and Germany over the past year and U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month said that hundreds of Russian nationals were involved in…

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