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Measuring exposure to misinformation from political elites on Twitter

November 21, 2022

Misinformation can come directly from public figures and organizations (referred to here as “elites”). Here, we develop a tool for measuring Twitter users’ exposure to misinformation from elites based on the public figures and organizations they choose to follow. Using a database of professional fact-checks by PolitiFact, we calculate falsity scores for 816 elites based on the veracity of their statements. We then assign users an elite misinformation-exposure score based on the falsity scores of the elites they follow on Twitter. Users’ misinformation-exposure scores are negatively correlated with the quality of news they share themselves, and positively correlated with estimated conservative ideology. Additionally, we analyze the co-follower, co-share, and co-retweet networks of 5000 Twitter users and observe an association between conservative ideology and misinformation exposure. Finally, we find that estimated ideological extremity is associated with more misinformation exposure to a greater extent for users estimated to be conservative than for users estimated to be liberal. Finally, we create an open-source R library and an Application Programming Interface (API) making our elite misinformation-exposure estimation tool openly available to the community.