January 18, 2022

Research Article: “How Does Fake News Spread? Pathways of Disinformation Spread Through APIs”

The following article was recently published by Policy & Internet.


How Does Fake News Spread? Pathways of Disinformation Spread Through APIs


Lynnette H. X. Ng
Carnegie Mellon University

Araz Taeihagh
National University of Singapore


policy internet. 2021
DOI: 10.1002/poi3.268


What are the pathways for spreading disinformation on social media platforms? This article addresses this question by collecting, categorising, and situating an extensive body of research on how application programming interfaces (APIs) provided by social media platforms facilitate the spread of disinformation. We first examine the landscape of official social media APIs, then perform quantitative research on the open-source code repositories GitHub and GitLab to understand the usage patterns of these APIs. By inspecting the code repositories, we classify developers’ usage of the APIs as official and unofficial, and further develop a four-stage framework characterising pathways for spreading disinformation on social media platforms. We further highlight how the stages in the framework were activated during the 2016 US Presidential Elections, before providing policy recommendations for issues relating to access to APIs, algorithmic content, advertisements, and suggest rapid response to coordinate campaigns, development of collaborative, and participatory approaches as well as government stewardship in the regulation of social media platforms.

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26 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.