The #Election2016 Macro-Propaganda Machine?

❌Left-wing MSM vs. one Twitter account

Jonathan Albright
5 min readDec 5, 2016


The Left-Wing News Ecosystem preview // (work in progress)

Until now, the work in this project has focused on the “right-wing” news media ecosystem. The micro-propaganda network graph showed a number of smaller sites in the right-wing news ecosystem orbiting as “link satellites” around the mainstream media, YouTube, and Google. In the widest-view right-wing network graph, red lines show thousands of hyperlinks being directed from the network’s periphery into the major sites around the center.

I’m not one to leave a party halfway through, so I think it’s the perfect time to publish a preview of the “left-wing” news ecosystem. It’s been more difficult to find an equivalent list of liberal propaganda sites (I’ll talk more about the reasons in the next post). But I decided to take the first steps in putting up the same type of analysis for the left-wing news ecosystem. As before, these graphs are meant primarily to get a sense of the playing field — not to make definitive conclusions about politics, actors, or the internet in general.

This is a snapshot of the “left-wing” network.

The sites on the first “fake news” right-wing list were sourced from Snopes, Fake News Watch, Real or Satire, and Media Bias Fact Check lists of “right,” “conspiracy,” and “fake” news (<-see MBFC methodology).

This preliminary “left-wing” analysis consists of 130 news sites. 11,619 webpages were crawled, 307,058 distinct webpages were discovered in the larger network, and 660,776 hyperlinks were captured. This first-run sample is similar in quantity and scope to my 117 right-wing fake/hoax/hyper-biased and micro-propaganda sites. Here’s my full list of “left-wing” news sites:

Due to the difficulty in finding left-wing “fake news” sites (except for The Onion), I used Media Bias Fact Check’s entire list of left-biased news sites. It involves larger media organizations (generally speaking) than the right wing sites. This sample includes left-wing media such as Slate, MSNBC, Mother Jones, and Vox.

I’m using the same strategy for the left-wing: crawling the sites, capturing the hyperlinks one level deep, indexing them, and then using an open-source graphing tool, Gephi, to map out the hyperlink relationships. I use the same force-directed layout, sizing scale, and ranking system as the right-wing analysis. I also added the The Onion (this satire news site was excluded from my earlier right-wing “fake news” analysis).

After looking at this comparable “left” news ecosystem, I think it’s fair to say that that the post-election “left” news media appears far less diversified on the following network graph. The actors seem more closely connected, and centered on government, science, policymaking, education, and publishing. Although this is useful for visual purposes as well as for certain types of network metrics (e.g., PageRank), it isn’t all that surprising.

“Left-wing” news media ecosystem map — list source: MBFC’s “left” biased news list

Outside of their “government huddle,” the left-wing media does not seem to be well-connected to much else: almost all of the left news websites are packed in around the network center with few connections (e.g., hyperlinks) outside their inner circle. The left-wing news media has clearly defined opinion leaders and large mass media players such as The New York Times, but it also seems like a dense stronghold of major MSM players.

I’ve said before that the right-wing map felt like an impressively coordinated and widely-dispersed “linking assault” on the information channels of mainstream media. Let’s get to the zoomed-in “left” graphs.

I wasn’t expecting to find a left-wing news media network map as interesting as the ones from the right-wing news sites. But this graph shows quite a bit of fascinating detail into Trump’s Twitter vs. the rest of the “left” news media. For this preliminary network graph, @realDonaldTrump is positioned between Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Pinterest, and Fox News. has nice “network neighbors”

This left-wing map is interesting in how it shows the core strategy that has likely helped the right-wing news juggernaut keep the left MSM’s 300-pound defensive line at bay:

This network graph of nearly 700,000 hyperlinks across an extended network of 130 leading “left” news media sites suggests that Trump’s Twitter has strategically cut off a few of the major left-wing news actors from the center of their MSM, government-dominated network “huddle.” Two of the largest newspapers in the country — The New York Times and WaPo—almost look like they’re getting pushed off the field.

Pushed off the field by Twitter juggernaut?

This feat is impressive. It suggests the strategic use of a social media account — particularly Trump’s Twitter — is breaking up the “left” news media “defensive line.” I’ve emphasized repeatedly that retweets, Twitter @reply outrage, and “news” about the types of accounts a Twitter profile “follows” plays right into this kind of offensive play calling strategy. So far, it seems to be working incredibly well.

While I think the same idea goes for Facebook, posts on Facebook likely take more time, and it’s harder to “.@quote-tweet.” Plus, an unknown number of posts will be filtered in News Feeds unless there’s advertising money put down on sponsored posts.

Why waste time on Facebook when you can blitz any opposing team in the mainstream media with 140 words or less? Sad!

This is my first-round follow-up for the left-wing news sphere. I decided to post this preview, since I found the isolation/distance between the NYT and WaPo (not so much Slate) from the rest of their MSM peers surprising — not to mention how @ realDonaldTrump’s Twitter account is “wedged” in between Fox News and four of the world’s largest social media platforms.



Jonathan Albright

Professor and researcher in news, journalism, and #hashtags. Award-nominated data journalist. Media, communication, and technology.