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Brexit, social media and fake news

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Presentation on Brexit, social media and fake news given at the University of Costa Rica for the Chair of Information Literacy and Interculturalism,

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Brexit, social media and fake news

  1. 1. Brexit, Social Media and Fake News – the challenge to interculturalism. Professor Marcus Leaning University of Winchester
  2. 2. The EU • Brexit is the process of the UK leaving the European Union. • EU emerged from post WW2 efforts to prevent war – idea that economically interdependent countries tend not to fight each other. • A process of gradual integration with waves of countries joining and new treaties deepening ties. • A single market of 28 countries 500 million people. • Four ‘freedoms’: • Goods – a common customs union; • Capital – banking, trading shares, owning property, investing. • Services – operate in any country; • Movement – move to and work in any country;
  3. 3. 22nd June 2016 UK Referendum held. 33,614,074 (72.21%) voted Leave 17,410,742 51.9% Remain 16,141,241 48.1% 29nd March 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty announcing the UK will leave the EU on Friday 29nd March 2019.
  4. 4. How (and why) did this happen? Did social media and fake news play a part? What impact is it having for the idea of interculturalism?
  5. 5. The UK and the EU • Britain joined the EEC (forerunner to the EU) in 1973, a referendum to remain was held in 1975, 2/3 majority to do so. • No overwhelming majority in the UK population either way on membership and it changes. • However, there are pockets of people with very strong feelings both to remain and to leave. This crosses the political spectrum. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 1977 1979 1981 1983 1987 1989 1991 1993 1994 1997 1999 2001 2003 2007 2011 2012 2014 Voting intentions on EU membership Data from IPSOS Mori Stay in Get out Thatcher / Major Conservative Blair Labour Cameron Conservative / Lib Dem coalition
  6. 6. The road to Brexit The UK, Europe and the coalition • Cameron takes leadership of Conservative Party in 2005. • New policy direction, social liberal PM. • Takes the party towards the centre. • Labour lose 2010 election after 13 years in power. • Conservatives form coalition with Liberal Democrats. • About half of Conservative Party anti-European Union fearing greater integration and control and a desire to control borders more strictly. • Also rise of Right wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) – very anti European Union. • Object to: • Migration; • Loss of sovereignty.
  7. 7. The referendum… and after. • Inside the Conservative Party a lot of fighting – UKIP poaching members, calls for a referendum on EU membership after perceptions of high numbers of migrants and the migration crisis (post Afghan war, north African and middle east Spring). • 2015 Conservatives win election – Cameron agrees to call a referendum. • 2016 Referendum, Cameron resigns, May takes over. • 2017 election May no majority, forms a pact with DUP. • Currently no deal about what will happen post 29 March 2019…
  8. 8. The Leave campaign(s) • The Leave side had two separate campaigns: • Vote Leave was the official one. • Made economic arguments; • Very strong on PR. • Leave.EU was unofficial, supported by Farage, significant popular support. • Focus on immigration. • More emotive.
  9. 9. Campaign Styles: Leave • ‘Take back control’ • Money – spend it on the NHS; • Borders; • Immigration; • Restore traditional power in trade; • Make own laws. • A simple, powerful message about restoration and unity. • Emotional in content, played to ideas about nation, an ‘enemy’ and freedom. • Aim was to induce behavior rather than communicate ideas.
  10. 10. The Remain Campaign • Official campaign was Britain Stronger in Europe. • Cameron aligned with it but not leading it. • Appealed to reason and economics. • Largely negative – listed the bad things that would happen - labeled as ‘Project Fear’.
  11. 11. Campaign Styles: Remain • Key message was economic and rather mixed – a defensive approach. • Retain the status quo. • Appealed to economic rationality. • Stability. • More of the same - didn’t offer anything new. • More a public communication campaign than an persuasive one.
  12. 12. Big spending on big data referendum • Remain £12.1 million (Also a government leaflet - £9.3 million); • Vote Leave £9.8 million (along with other campaigns spent £3.5 million on Aggregate IQ who are linked to Cambridge Analytica). • Leave EU £3.2 million (they also illegally over spent by £675,000) all spent entirely on digital. • Both spent heavily on digital. • Leave spending more and had virtually no print media advertising. • Remain made use of digital and print media.
  13. 13. Personal data • Both sides used personalised voter profiles driven by bespoke analytic software • Voter Identification and Contact - Leave + Facebook profiles provided by AggregateIQ • NationBuilder - remain. • Driven by social media analytics, purchased information from electoral registration, newspaper preferences, shopping choices, canvassing. • Scored each voter on their likely voting preference and compile target lists of potential ‘swingers’ for the campaign teams who then used canvassing, email and other methods to engage them.
  14. 14. Digital Campaign: Google Search engine • Vote Leave spent on non-organic adverts for key terms during campaign. • Had their ad placed top of search for register to vote. • Remain made some very bad errors in handling non-social media digital.
  15. 15. Web pages • Leave.EU and Vote Leave had ‘punchier’ websites. • Humorous but still conveying message. • Leave.EU immigration; • Vote Leave economic . • Remain’s main message is safety and economic. • But quite dry.
  16. 16. Social media Platform Vote Leave/ Leave EU Britain Stronger in Europe. Facebook Vote Leave Facebook 534,212 Leave.EU 762,877 561,277 Twitter Vote Leave 68,211 Leave.EU 110,319 followers. 53,762 • Main social media used by both campaigns were Facebook and Twitter. • Allowed precision targeting and data driven campaigns.
  17. 17. Posts • Social media used to share lots of news stories from newspapers and TV clips, visual images and memes about the referendum. • On Twitter Leave posts were retweeted 7 times more than Remain posts. • Bots very active – most active non-official accounts on Twitter were bots.
  18. 18. Other digital media… •Leave developed an app- • regular calls to action • ‘post this to you social media feed!’ • 5 push notifications on voting day; • Sent contact list to Leave HQ. • Over 200,000 actions because of it.
  19. 19. Fake News • Two forms of fake news: • Real Fake News Completely fictitious information produced by sites to generate ad revenue then shared on social media. Often looks like real sites. Used heavily in US election. • Fake Real News - Fake information published by ‘reputable’ news organisations and then shared on social media.
  20. 20. Fake Real News Unlike US Presidential elections, Real Fake News was not detected in EU referendum. However, British Newspapers printed a lot of stories of ‘questionable’ objectivity and truthfulness. Also published a lot of questionable claims made by politicians and pundits.
  21. 21. Since the referendum… • Theresa May triggered Article 50 (the leave action) 29th March 2017. • If all goes as planned UK will exit EU on 29th March 2019. • Since then lots of problems within the different political parties: • Conservatives split between ‘Hard’ (no trade deal and WTO rules) and ‘Soft’ Brexit (a trade deal). May is very weak (no majority means she has to make deals all the time, any division will bring down government) • Labour also for Brexit but a softer versions but has internal problems with Anti-Semitism. • Changes in wider culture and the ‘place’ of migrants in British life.
  22. 22. UK multiculturalism and interculturalism • UK always had migrants – idea of an indigenous white population very questionable. • Since the 1960s the approach to migrant communities has been to allow for cultural diversity: • 1966 Home Secretary Roy Jenkins defined ‘integration’ as: “not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.” • Treat migrants well and they will embrace British culture and values. • They come to Britain because of these values. • Evidence indicates that over generations people from different communities do consider themselves more British and identify with British values. • Brexit is part of a series of events and phenomena that challenge this ideal.
  23. 23. Challenges… • Various reinterpretations of immigration and multicultural policy. • Claims that it has ‘failed’. • Academic research indicates it has not and actually works well in comparison to other systems. • More recently (since 2010) the Right asserting resistance to immigration – ‘Hostile Environment’ policy. • Extremist Islamic terrorist attacks. • Rise of far Right movements.
  24. 24. Wider political culture… • Hate crimes up 23% in 2017. • Anti-Muslim street attacks increased by 58% in months post Brexit. • Prof Tendayi Achiume UN Special Rapporteur on racism: “The environment leading up to the referendum, the environment during the referendum, and the environment after the referendum has made racial and ethnic minorities more vulnerable to racial discrimination and intolerance.” (2018) Home Office Report “Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2016/17”
  25. 25. Migrant views – young people • 49.35% of young people from outside the UK reported an increase in the amount of racist abuse they have received since Brexit. • “I feel European more than anything. The Brexit Referendum has me severely worried for the future of this country, its people and foreigners living here.”(Slodan, 15, Czech Republic). • “I moved here when I was six years old, and even though I speak English with a British accent as a result of using it for over 11 years, when people find out I am Polish, I often face racism and discrimination. I find that I belong as long as no one finds out my nationality.” (Artur, 17, Poland) N. Tyrrell, E. Käkelä, S. Corson, D. Sime, C Kelly, C. McMellon and M. Moska, “Eastern European Young People’s Feelings of Belonging: Any place in Brexit Britain?” Policy Briefing No.2, ESRC, 2018.
  26. 26. • “I was once talking about Brexit with my lecturer. He said I was lucky because you can’t tell I’m Polish by the way I speak. I don’t want to stay in the country in which I need to hide my nationality to be treated equally.” (Kolin, 17, Poland). • I have experienced “incidents of being called a prostitute based on my background, being told to go back to my own country, a couple of more severe incidents included having rocks thrown at me and me being chased down the street by a group of teenage boys.’ (Oksana, 18, Poland) • “I don’t feel as much as a part of England after Brexit as I’m uncertain of the future.” (Dorota, 18, Poland). N. Tyrrell, E. Käkelä, S. Corson, D. Sime, C Kelly, C. McMellon and M. Moska, “Eastern European Young People’s Feelings of Belonging: Any place in Brexit Britain?” Policy Briefing No.2, ESRC, 2018.
  27. 27. No happy ending, and maybe worse to come. • The damage to the intercultural and attitudes towards multicultural in Britain is evident: • A definite rise in the amount and virulence of discourse of an anti-intercultural nature - nativism; • Particularly evident in certain social media echo chambers; • Fuelled by borderline racist and xenophobic discourse ‘normalised’ being normalised in the popular press; • General rise in hate-crime and xenophobic attitudes.
  28. 28. Final question: Is Brexit a cause or a symptom? What to make of this phenomena? • Academics have offered explanations that we can group into three positions: 1. Brexit unleashed dragons; 2. Brexit used by political entrepreneurs to secure career progress and power; 3. Brexit a consequence of the form of British late modernity.
  29. 29. 1. Brexit unleashed dragons. • Brexit gives license to the racism that was already there in British culture. • Acceptable for people to say things and behave as they had wanted to for a while and gives legitimacy to xenophobic attitudes. • Good news is these are not new, often come out in times of political crisis, can be dealt with and peace restored. • A LOT of effort to do so though.
  30. 30. 2. Political Entrepreneurs • Politicians use a crisis to secure power. • During a period of turmoil they adopt a position that distinguishes them from others. • This often involves adopting populist, nationalistic and occasionally racist positions and discourse. • Place themselves as outsiders to the system who will reform the system. • Problem is that their careers do damage to social fabric.
  31. 31. 3. British late modernity • Britain’s experience of late Modernity is one of a decreased role in world politics. • Rise of other powers and even former colonies. • Presented with the idea that the best option was within a larger trading block with other European countries – consequences of this for national pride. • This coupled with a period of severe austerity following financial crash left many disenchanted with politics as it is. • Brexit vote a way of offering resistance the existing relations and having a revolution against a ‘foreign’ enemy.
  32. 32. Questions?

Presentation on Brexit, social media and fake news given at the University of Costa Rica for the Chair of Information Literacy and Interculturalism,

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