N&O features Albright as 'Tar Heel of the Week' for research about 'fake news' ecosystem

Jonathan Albright, assistant professor of communications, has written extensively about the ecosystem of right-wing websites that distributed fake news leading up to last year's presidential election. 

The News & Observer of Raleigh has featured Elon professor Jonathan Albright as its “Tar Heel of the Week” for his research during the past several months into the online ecosystem responsible for spreading “fake news” leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

Albright has written extensively about the topic after diving into data that connects hundreds of right-wing websites to each other through their distribution of articles purporting to be based in fact but instead revealed to be propoganda. His research and findings have received widespread media coverage in outlets including The Guardian, the Washington Post, Fortune Magazine and others. 

The Jan. 7 article in the News & Observer, one of the largest statewide news outlets, drills down into what prompted Albright to undertake his research and begin trying to produce a visual representation of the connections between a wide range of sites. The article notes Albright’s background in biology, which contributed to his viewing the connections as part of an ecosystem. 

“It shows the information resources they’re using to promote a certain type of view,” Albright told correspondent Marti Maguire for the article. “It’s so large and complex, you can’t put it into a table or a list. Things started to fall into place when I looked at it as an ecosystem.”

The article also includes insights from Janna Anderson, professor of communications and director of the Imagining the Internet Center, about Albright’s work and the value it brings to the media studies arena. “He was able to illustrate in a fairly simple manner a lot of information about fake news and move the conversation of this forward in a productive way,” Anderson told Maguire.