Local figures are the most relevant in spreading online disinformation ahead of Italy’s election

Local figures are the main source of online disinformation in advance of Italy’s election, overshadowing concerns of foreign influence. Officials have pointed to Italian politicians and influencers as key players in spreading false information, with a focus on anti-immigrant sentiments and support for Russia. Despite fears of outside interference, local social media accounts have been found to have a more significant impact due to the trust placed in domestic sources by the Italian population.

Italy has a nationwide election on September 25. Despite concerns that international agents would try to meddle in the campaign, Italian politicians and influencers have played the most relevant role in spreading online disinformation, according to an analysis by Digital Bridge. EU officials in charge of tackling foreign disinformation have insisted that the Kremlin may seek to tilt the scales in its favor during this weekend’s vote. However, in the past few weeks Italian Facebook and Twitter accounts posting electoral disinformation have significantly outnumbered foreign accounts in combined likes, shares and comments, according to data from CrowdTangle. These accounts have openly attacked immigrants, made accusations against the EU and promoted support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While it is not likely that this comes from a foreign propaganda campaign, Italians are more likely to believe what they read from local sources than foreign sites.