FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 13 February 2016

Social Media Is Changing The Face Of Politics And It's Not Good News

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Angela Phillips, Goldsmiths, University of London

Most people across the developed world still get most of their news via television - and traditional news brands, produced by journalists, still top the rankings for the most read news on the internet. But a growing number of people have stopped turning on the TV, buying a paper or even visiting a news website.

They are reading their news - filtered for them by more assiduous friends - on their Facebook feeds or having it provided for them by organisations or politicians that are paying Facebook for their attention. Researchers have already noted a growing division between "news junkies" who read widely (but usually only from sources they agree with) and a growing band of "news avoiders" who are opting out of news that seems aggressively polarised.

Two recent elections give some idea of what is happening to news. In the summer of 2015, Jeremy Corbyn stunned seasoned political commentators when he sailed into the leadership of the British Labour Party. Similarly, in the US election race, outsider Bernie Sanders is surging in the polls. Nearly 60% of Corbyn supporters use social media as their main source of news (the average is 32%). An analysis by US Uncut found that Sanders received 42% of Facebook mentions compared to 13% for Clinton.

For their supporters, social media platforms represent a radical new dawn in which conservative old media will give way to a myriad of new ideas. Among the politically aligned and interested, social media provides a mobilising force that builds passionate partisanship. But they don't realise that they are living in a bubble and barely registering in the minds of people who either don't share their viewpoint or (and this is more important) are not particularly interested in politics. Sanders garnered less than a third of the press attention that Clinton attracted. Those voters who don't share the social media profile of his supporters may never hear their arguments. Viral news needs the blood stream of broader media to carry it from one silo to another.

Bernie Sanders dominates social media but is much less visible in mainstream news. Reuters/Jay Paul

Growing 'news gap'

Polarisation of news is commonplace in southern Europe, where it has always been politically aligned. But in northern Europe, television has, since its inception, been regulated (Daniel Hallin and Paolo Mancini 2004, Comparing Media Systems) in order to ensure that people encounter public information and that it is relatively politically neutral. The US shared this approach until 1987 when the "fairness doctrine" was repealed and the stage was set for the rise of polarised news.

Research by Norwegian academic Toril Aalberg and James Curran, a colleague of mine at Goldsmiths, found that deregulation had other effects: in the US, those with university degrees are far more likely to be knowledgeable about news events than those without university education - a problem that is not encountered in the Nordic countries where news is still regulated. The 2015 Reuters Digital News Report also found far greater political polarisation: two thirds of the Fox news audience identify as right wing, while only 6% identify as left wing. In the UK there is virtually no political polarisation across channels.

Fair and balanced: Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly. Reuters/Brendan McDermid

In those countries that retained their television regulation and more neutral forms of television news broadcasts, what has been termed the "news gap" between informed and uninformed publics has been held at bay - but that may last only as long as television remains the major source of news for the bulk of the population. As the youngest audiences, absorbed by their portable screens, turn away from TV news selected and ranked by editors, "me" journalism - provided according to its audiences' pre-determined requirements - is on the rise.

Rise of the "Daily Me"

In the summer of 2011, the UK Guardian was attracting 35% of its audience via searches from Google and only 2% from social media. Most of the rest came direct to its website. Then The Guardian signed up to the Facebook news app and six months later, The Monday Note blog announced: "This week's most stunning statistic: In February, Facebook drove more traffic to The Guardian website than Google did".

The Guardian's traffic soared by more than 60% as readers signed up to the app and everything they read was automatically posted into their Facebook feed where it might be seen by their friends, commented on and passed on to others. Since the broad assumption was that numbers would drive ads and ads would increase digital revenue, The Guardian was delighted and many other publishers jumped in with Facebook to share this new source of distribution.

Three years later, only 6% of the news stories being read by app subscribers actually get shared and it is Facebook that determines what they will be - based on its own data of individual users' "likes".

A study by US researcher Pablo J Bocskowski, Eugenia Mitchelstein and Martin Walter in 2010 found that most people click on stories about sports, entertainment, crime and weather. My own research suggests that most of what is shared follows this pattern and that shares are also gender biased. Young women tend to see news that evokes empathy (crime, health, social justice), while young men are more likely to talk about technology, gaming and sport. Those who are interested in politics share only what interests (or angers them) them and are unlikely to see the counter arguments.

This effect is exacerbated on Twitter where polarisation is rife. Analysis of the events in Ferguson US in 2015 and how they were discussed on social media, shows just how little Twitter has helped people to listen to the views of others.

Facebook now dominates the news being read by young people and its domination is not just national - it is global. It may well be time to think about what societies need to do to counter this growing, global news monopoly. Facebook may not be in the business of news production but its impact on news is already profound and not always positive.

The ConversationAngela Phillips, Professor, Goldsmiths, University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
A Short Note on a Connection Between Marginalist Economics and Folk Medicine
Run A High Pressure Economy? Janet Yellen Does Not Understand the Problem
News Blog
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Down, Oil Lower, Great Lakes Wind Power, Chinese Moving Mfg To US, Tesla Reports Profit, Dems Forecast To Take Senate, China's Debt And More
How Miller Stacks Up Against His Draft Class
Inside The Machine: How Two Nobel Winners Taught Us How Companies Tick
Healthcare's Dirty Little Secret: Results From Many Clinical Trials Are Unreliable
The Cleveland Indian's Unique Use Of Andrew Miller
What We Read Today 26 October 2016
Why Do So Many Price Tags End In .99
September 2016 New Home Sales Improve.
Higher GDP Growth In The Long Run Requires Higher Productivity Growth
Quantum Encryption Is Secure Because Information Encoded In A Quantum Particle Is Destroyed As Soon As It Is Measured
The Stock Market Is Up, But Mutual Fund Investors Are Fleeing
Infographic Of The Day: Google's Hidden Games
Early Headlines: Asia Srocks Mostly Lower, Energy HY Bonds Surge, Google Fiber Cutback, Shadow Banks Dominate Mortgages, NATO Crowds Russia, Coffee Surges And More
Investing Blog
Thirsty For Income? How To Thrive In This Yield Desert
Apple's First Annual Sales Decline In 15 Years
Opinion Blog
A Hard Brexit And Reduced Migration Won't Benefit UK Workers
What Triggers Collapse?
Precious Metals Blog
Inflation Surging As Platinum Signals Stock Market Decline
Live Markets
26Oct2016 Market Close: US Markets Close Lower, Boeing Shares Up, Texas Tea Stabilizes In Low 49's, Gold Falls To 1266, Friday's Fed Rate Change Promises To Be A Game Changer
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved