Truths and Tales: Understanding Online Fake News Networks in South Korea

Benedict Sheehy, Sujin Choi, Irfan Khan, Bruce Baer Arnold, Yoonmo Sang, Jae-Jin Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates the features of fake news networks and how they spread during the 2020 South Korean election. Using actor–network theory (ANT), we assessed the network’s central players and how they are connected. Results reveal the characteristics of the videoclips and channel networks responsible for the propagation of fake news. Analysis of the videoclip network reveals a high number of detected fake news videos and a high density of connections among users. Assessment of news videoclips on both actual and fake news networks reveals that the real news network is more concentrated. However, the scale of the network may play a role in these variations. Statistics for network centralization reveal that users are spread out over the network, pointing to its decentralized character. A closer look at the real and fake news networks inside videos and channels reveals similar trends. We find that the density of the real news videoclip network is higher than that of the fake news network, whereas the fake news channel networks are denser than their real news counterparts, which may indicate greater activity and interconnectedness in their transmission. We also found that fake news videoclips had more likes than real news videoclips, whereas real news videoclips had more dislikes than fake news videoclips. These findings strongly suggest that fake news videoclips are more accepted when people watch them on YouTube. In addition, we used semantic networks and automated content analysis to uncover common language patterns in fake news, which helps us better understand the structure and dynamics of the networks involved in the dissemination of fake news. The findings reported here provide important insights on how fake news spread via social networks during the South Korean election of 2020. The results of this study have important implications for the campaign against fake news and ensuring factual coverage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Asian and African Studies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2024


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