Promoted to Professor of Political Communication

I am delighted to announce that I have been promoted to Professor of Political Communication at Loughborough University.

The forward-looking and time-pressured nature of academic life often means that we do not reflect much on our achievements—be they publications, grants, students making us proud, media coverage, contributions to societal change, or any other component of our mission as scholars. We just move on to the next goal and the next deadline, or at least that is how it has always worked for me. This time, however, feels different, and I want to share some reflections on how and why I think I got here.

When I was a kid, I wore thick glasses and I loved to read. I was lucky I could read pretty much all I wanted because my parents owned a newspaper shop. It was a small, dusty kiosk, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. I spent a lot of time there because both my parents worked round the clock to keep the shop open and fully stocked fourteen hours a day, six days a week, two Sundays a month. For most of my long summer holidays I played in the muddy patch behind the store, going back inside the kiosk to get a drink of water, ask my parents money for an ice cream, and snatch a comic book. As I grew older, I started helping my parents in the shop, and as kids do, I began dreaming of becoming a journalist to write in those newspapers people cared enough about to buy them every day. Inevitably, I shared my aspiration with anyone who would listen, and a regular customer started mocking me: “You are going to fill the papers with lies, and your parents are going to sell them!” (The post-truth crisis has deep historical roots in Italy.)

That small newspaper kiosk is where my fascination for media began. As time went by, our family business moved to a spacious store in a futuristic shopping mall and I moved from comics and sports magazines to newspapers and books. I also became more interested in television news than cartoons. There was a lot going on at the time, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Christian Democratic party-State in Italy, and I began to talk about it all with my parents. This is when my passion for politics was born, compounding my interest in media and communication.

If I have decided to dedicate my professional life to understanding political communication, it is because of those years I spent surrounded by all sorts of (print) media, and because of those long discussions about politics on my family home sofa. I owe all of this to my parents, and I am grateful to them for that. I am also grateful to them for showing, not just telling me, that working hard, persevering in the face of difficulties, and treating others with care and respect are keys to a happy, fulfilling life. Cara mamma, caro papà, grazie di cuore. Vi voglio bene.

A lot happened in the following two decades. I dropped my thick glasses for contact lenses that were as expensive as they were uncomfortable. I kept loving books, and I was fortunate enough to have as many as I wanted. I even published some of my own. I switched back to glasses. I spent time as a visiting student in the United States. I became a tenured academic in Italy. As the first person in my extended family to even go to University, I felt proud of the hard work I had done to get there and fortunate for the support of my parents, but I knew there was something else to it. One day, one of my favorite writers helped me realize what it was.

In the spring of 2013, I was sitting in the stands of the Academic Senate of the University of Bologna, of which I was then a member, attending the ceremony for the award of an honorary degree to the French novelist Daniel Pennac. In his lectio magistralis, Pennac argued that professors can act either as gardiens du temple, policing particular disciplinary, methodological, and stylistic boundaries, or as passeurs, striving to awaken consciousness and instill a sense of wonder for what is beautiful, novel, and important—regardless of where it comes from and irrespective of what canons it espouses or violates. Here is a video excerpt of Pennac’s speech, titled “A Lesson of Ignorance”, which he delivered in Italian. Here is the text of his speech in French. And here is a short essay Pennac wrote on the subject in French.

Pennac’s words resonated with me in a very special way, and they have stayed with me ever since. I realized that I was sitting on those stands because someone, one day, had listened to my ideas rather than telling me what to do, and then had helped me achieve what I envisioned rather than shrugging me off. And then someone else had done the same. And then another. And then many more. Finally, I knew, and I still know.

If I have been able to do the job of my dreams, and to do it well enough to be called a Professor, I owe it to the many generous passeur colleagues whom I had the good fortune to meet in my life—as an undergraduate and doctoral student in Italy, as an exchange student and a visiting scholar in the United States, as an early-career researcher in Italy, as a migrant academic in the United Kingdom, and as a member of various scholarly communities around the world. Thank you for your inspiration, your support and, in many cases, your friendship. You know who you are.

Program of the Fifth Conference of The International Journal of Press/Politics #ijpp19

Next week, Loughborough University will host the fifth conference of The International Journal of Press/Politics. I look forward to welcoming 65 delegates from five continents and eighteen different countries, who will present research covering 50 countries across all continents but Antarctica.

Below is the conference program. The event will be held at Holywell Park Conference Centre. Please stop by if you can, and engage with the event on Twitter with the hashtag #ijpp19.

Monday, September 16

Keynote Speech (Stephenson Lecture Theatre)

  • Welcome: Cristian Vaccari (Loughborough University)
  • On the Increasing Viability of ‘Good News’
    Stuart Soroka (University of Michigan)

Panel 1A (Brunel-Murdoch Room): The Changing Infrastructure of Journalism
Chair: C.W. Anderson (University of Leeds)

  • Facebook and the platformization of local information infrastructure
    Kjerstin Thorson and Mel Medeiros (Michigan State University)
  • Philanthropy in US Journalism and the Power Geometry of Place
    Nikki Usher and Sanghoon Kim (University of Illinois)
  • Churnalism, press releases, and wire copy: a comparative analysis of textual reuse in UK and US online news
    Tom Nicholls and Lucas Graves (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Panel 1B (Pascal Room): Shaping Public Discourse in Contemporary Media
Chair: David Deacon (Loughborough University)

  • The Go-Betweens: Political Discourse Management Practices on Social Media among Political Aides – A Comparative Study
    Chen Sabag-Ben Porat and Sharon Haleva-Amir (Bar Ilan University)
  • European elections 2019: the first “Social-order” electoral campaign? A transnational and comparative analysis among 28 nations.
    Edoardo Novelli (Università degli studi di Rona Tre)
  • Keep Calm and Carry On? A Long-Term Comparison of Crisis Communication by Executives in the European Union
    Olga Eisele, Petro Tolochko, and Hajo Boomgaarden (University of Vienna)

Panel 2A (Brunel-Murdoch Room): Understanding Contemporary News Ecosystems
Chair: Andrew Chadwick (Loughborough University)

  • Integrating the social geography of the lifeworld into the study of media use and opinion formation
    Chris Wells (Boston University), Lewis A. Friedland, Ceri Hughes, Jiyoun Suk, Michael Wagner, and Dhavan V. Shah (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Transnational networking and (dis-)integration among right-wing digital news ecologies in Europe and the US
    Annett Heft (Freie Universität Berlin and Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society), Curd Knüpfer (Freie Universität Berlin and Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society), Eva Mayerhöffer (Roskilde University), and Susanne Reinhardt (Freie Universität Berlin and Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society)
  • Analyzing the interrelated public agenda in a time of high-choice media environment
    Giovanni Boccia Artieri (Università di Urbino Carlo Bo) and Sara Bentivegna (Università di Roma “La Sapienza”)

Panel 2B (Pascal Room): Comparative Research in Political Communication
Chair: Jay Blumler (University of Leeds)

  • Red economy, blue economy. How media-party parallelism affects the partisan economic perception and attribution gap
    Arjen van Dalen (University of Southern Denmark)
  • Media heritage and fact-checking: A cross-national study
    Salma El idrissi and Drew Margolin (Cornell University)
  • Conspiracy Believers in Europe: A Comparative Study of their Characteristics
    Annemarie Walter and Hugo Drochon (University of Nottingham)

Panel 3A (Brunel-Murdoch Room): Political Communication and Representation in the UK
Chair: Andrea Carson (La Trobe University, Melbourne)

  • Who Represents the Islamic State? Analysing the Interplay between Media, Political and Public Representations of the Islamic State During the November 13th 2015 Paris Attacks
    Jared Ahmad (University of Sheffield)
  • Partisan Century: Continuities and Changes in Newspaper Editorialising during UK General Elections from 1918 to 2017
    Dominic Wring and David Deacon (Loughborough University)
  • Defining “Fiscal Sustainability” for the UK Press: The Office for Budget Responsibility
    Catherine Walsh (Cardiff University)

Panel 3B (Pascal Room): Political Actors’ Use of Social Media
Chair: Jason Gainous (University of Louisville)

  • Hostile media perceptions and social media in Latin American elections
    Francisco Brandao (University of Brasilia)
  • Have Political Jargons Divided the Nation? Evidence from the 2019 Indonesia’s General Election
    Nia Kurniasih, Dicky R. Munaf, Harry Nuriman, Prima Roza, and Ridwan Fauzi (Institut Teknologi Bandung)
  • Platformization of Political Communication and Public Opinion Formation in India: A Comparative Study of the “Chowkidar” Campaigns of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress as an Election Plank
    Sangeeta Mahapatra (GIGA Institute of Asian Studies, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg)

Panel 4 (Stephenson Lecture Theatre): Political Communication and Identity
Chair: Stephen D. Reese (University of Texas at Austin)

  • Political Identity-Ownership: Symbolic Contests to Represent Members of the Public
    Shannon C. McGregor (University of Utah), Daniel Kreiss (University of North Carolina), and Regina G. Lawrence (University of Oregon)
  • Analyzing gender differences in the (re)presentation of men and women in parliamentary debates
    Lucy Kinski (Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf) and Stefanie Walter (University of Bremen)
  • Movement-Media Relations in the Hybrid Media System: A Case Study from the US Transgender Rights Movement
    Thomas J. Billard (University of Southern California)

Tuesday, September 17

Panel 5A (Brunel-Murdoch Room): Effects of Political Communication
Chair: Kimberly Gross (George Washington University)

  • The impact of news consumption on anti-immigration attitudes and populist party support in a changing information ecology
    Václav Štětka, Sabina Mihelj, and Fanni Tóth (Loughborough University)
  • Now we’re talking: Examining interpersonal political discussion on WhatsApp
    Susan Vermeer, Sanne Kruikemeier, Damian Trilling, and Claes de Vreese (Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam)
  • Moving the crowd: Mobilising and persuading at rallies in Africa
    Dan Paget (University College London)

Panel 5B (Pascal Room): Global Perspectives on Political Communication and Representation
Chair: Chris Wells (Boston University)

  • Mediating the opponent’s news: A study of inter-media citations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    Yonatan Gonen, Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt, and Zohar Kampf (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
  • The Winner-Loser Spiral in Political News Coverage: Investigating the Impact of Poll Coverage on Subsequent Party Coverage
    Per Oleskog Tryggvason (University of Gothenburg)
  • Is there a discursive consensus? (Re)Conceptualisation of China’s “responsibility” in the China-US trade negotiation by Chinese and American media
    Xin Zhao (Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College)

Panel 6A (Brunel-Murdoch Room): Trust and Credibility in Fragmented Polities
Chair: Kjerstin Thorson (Michigan State University)

  • The Antecedents and Consequences of International Trust
    Kimberly Gross (George Washington University) and Paul R Brewer (University of Delaware)
  • A “Walter Cronkite” for the Digital News Generation: The Utility and Dangers of Individual-level Relationships of Trust
    Rachel Elizabeth Moran (Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California)
  • Credibility of digital political news in Spain: Comparison between traditional media and social media
    Reinald Besalu, Carles Pont-Sorribes, and Metzeri Sánchez Meza (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Panel 6B (Pascal Room): Journalism and Accountability
Chair: Seth Lewis (University of Oregon)

  • Hybridity and Framing Dynamics in Opensource Investigations
    Steven Livingston (School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University and Carr Center, Harvard University) and Gregory Asmolov (King’s College London)
  • Understanding global investigative journalism using a connective action framework of political protest in the digital age
    Andrea Carson (La Trobe University, Melbourne)
  • Free, but tame? How online and multiplatform journalists in nine European countries differ from their offline colleagues
    Imke Henkel (University of Lincoln), Neil Thurman (LMU Munich), Judith Möller (University of Amsterdam), and Damian Trilling (University of Amsterdam)

Panel 7A (Brunel-Murdoch Room): Misinformation and Disinformation
Chair: Steven Livingston (George Washington University)

  • The Era of Mobile (Mis)information? How Citizens Engage With Online Misinformation on WhatsApp and Facebook in Brazil
    Patricia Rossini (University of Liverpool), Jennifer Stromer-Galley (Syracuse University), Vanessa Veiga de Oliveira (Federal University of Minas Gerais), and Erica Anita Baptista (Federal University of Minas Gerais)
  • Multi-Stage Information Flows in Hybrid Media Systems: How A New Indexing Process Converts Disinformation into Mainstream News
    Curd Knüpfer (Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Freie Universität Berlin), Lance Bennett (University of Washington), Vadim Voskresenskii (Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Freie Universität Berlin), and Ulrike Klinger (Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Freie Universität Berlin)
  • Disinformation and hyperpartisanship on Twitter conversations during the 2018 Brazilian Presidential Campaign
    Felipe Bonow Soares (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul) and Raquel Recuero (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and Federal University of Pelotas)

Panel 7B (Pascal Room): The Political Outcomes of Media Use: Knowledge, Disinformation, and Polarization
Chair: Regina G. Lawrence (University of Oregon)

  • Social Media News Consumption, News Finds Me Perceptions, and Political Knowledge
    Rune Karlsen (University of Oslo), Audun Beyer (Institute for Social Research), and Kari Steen-Johnsen (Institute for Social Research)
  • Understanding Susceptibility to Anti-Immigrant Disinformation
    Eileen Culloty and Jane Suiter (Dublin City University)
  • Echo chambers or attentive readers? The effect of media framing and media selection on social polarization
    Mariano Torcal (Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Javier Lorenzo (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) and Sergio Martini (Università di Siena)

Panel 8A (Brunel-Murdoch Room): Engaging with News Online
Chair: Nikki Usher (University of Illinois)

  • Incidental Exposure to News on Social Media and News Repertoires in Europe and the USA
    Richard Fletcher, Anne Schulz, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)
  • Active vs. Passive Social Media Engagement with Critical Information: Protest Behavior in Two Asian Countries
    Jason Gainous (University of Louisville), Jason P. Abbott (University of Louisville), and Kevin M. Wagner (Florida Atlantic University)
  • Can Incivility be Democratic? Incivility in News Comment Section as a Power Struggle for Political Visibility
    Jane Yeahin Pyo (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Panel 8B (Pascal Room): The Co-Production of News
Chair: Sara Bentivegna (Università di Roma “La Sapienza”)

  • Political control in the Modern Arab Newsroom
    Abeer Anajjar (American University of Sharjah)
  • Promoting Chinese Media to Africa: Is there room for China media model in African mediascape?
    Jijun Ran (China Foreign Affairs University)
  • Comparing Bespoke and Banal Data Visualization Histories: The United States and the United Kingdom
    C.W. Anderson (University of Leeds)

Final Roundtable and Closing Remarks (Stephenson Lecture Theatre)

Chair: Cristian Vaccari (Loughborough University)

  • Regina G. Lawrence (University of Oregon)
  • Sabina Mihelj (Loughborough University)
  • Nikki Usher (University of Illinois)


Awarded the Best Paper Award by the Information Technology & Politics section of APSA


I am on my way back from the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, where I served as program chair for the Information Technology & Politics section and presented research on the effects of deepfakes that I am conducting with my colleague at Loughborough Andy Chadwick.

At the business meeting of the ITP section, I was honored to receive the award for the best paper presented at the previous edition of APSA. The committee (Shelley Boulianne, Jennifer Oser, and Cornelius Puschmann) chose to award the paper “Digital Political Talk and Political Participation: Comparing Established and Third Wave Democracies” that I coauthored with Augusto Valeriani. The abstract of the paper is below and the main findings are summarized in this post. The paper is now an open access article available on SAGE Open.

We investigate whether and how informal political talk on digital media contributes to citizens’ political participation with unique surveys based on samples representative of Internet users in seven Western democracies. We show that political talk on both social networking sites and mobile instant messaging platforms is positively associated with institutional and extra-institutional political participation. However, the relationship between talk on social networking sites and both types of participation is significantly stronger in established democracies (Denmark, France, United Kingdom, and United States) than in “third wave” democracies (Greece, Poland, and Spain). By contrast, the strength of the relationship between political talk on mobile instant messaging platforms and participation is not significantly different when comparing established and more recent democracies. These findings suggest that informal political talk on digital platforms can contribute to citizens’ participatory repertoires and that different institutional settings, in combination with different technological affordances, play an important role in shaping these patterns.

As is often the case, Augusto and I were fortunate to benefit from feedback, support, and inspiration from many colleagues in writing this paper. I first presented it at a meeting of SMaPP Global in New York and received invaluable feedback, among others by Yannis Theocharis who greatly helped us advance and clarify the way in which we theorized the role of political institutions and social trust. The paper is part of a whole special collection from SMaPP Global colleagues, which is all open access and definitely worth checking out.

I look forward to serving in next year’s award committee, as well as Chair of the whole ITP section.


Attending APSA as program chair of the Information Technology & Politics section

logoI first attended the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, the largest gathering of political scientists worldwide, in Chicago in 2004. Since then, attending this conference has become an integral part of my academic work and the occasion to strike and renew many amazing friendships and collaborations.

Every APSA meeting has been special and exciting, but this year’s is unique because for this first time I will not only participate by discussing my research and that of my colleagues. I have also played a small part in organizing the conference by serving as program chair of the Information Technology and Politics section. I reviewed proposals, accepted some and rejected many, drafted panels (no manels!), and worked with our older sister, the Political Communication section, to co-sponsor panels.

Here is the agenda for this year’s conference. If you are interested in digital media and politics and if you want to meet friendly, smart, and truly global colleagues, you will find all of that and more in these panels. And if you have never engaged with the section, please come say hi at the business meeting and join us at our joint reception with Political Communication.

Thursday, August 29
8:00 to 9:30am: “Commenting and Discussing Politics Online”
10:00 to 11:30am: “New Directions on Internet Government and Governance”
12:00 to 1:30pm: “New Perspectives on the Study of Information Technology and Politics”
2:00 to 3:30pm: “Political Effects of Digital Media” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
4:00 to 5:30pm: “Incivility and Being Mad Online” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)

Friday, August 30
8:00 to 9:30am: “Communicating Politics Online” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
10:00 to 11:30am: “Comparative Perspectives on Information Technology and Politics”
10:30 to 11:00am: “Poster Session: Information Technology and Politics”
12:00 to 1:30pm: “Online Disinformation: Actors, Platforms, and Users” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
2:00 to 3:30pm: “Digital Authoritarianism and the Public Sphere”
4:00 to 5:30pm: “News in the Digital Age”
7:30 to 9:00pm: Joint reception of the Political Communication and Information Technology & Politics sections

Saturday, August 31
8:00 to 9:30am: “Diverse India 2019: Populism, Campaigning & Influence”
12:00 to 1:30pm: “Social Media and American Politics”
4:00 to 5:30pm: “Social Media and Influence: Comparing Elections, Policy and Trump” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
4:00 to 5:30pm: “Visual Frontiers in Digital Politics” (co-sponsored with Political Communication, featuring among others a papery by yours truly and Andrew Chadwick on political deepfakes)
6:30 to 7:30pm: Business meeting of the Information Technology & Politics section

Sunday, September 1
8:00 to 9:30am: “Digital Media, Contestation and Repression”

See you all in DC!


Call for Papers for a Special Issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics: “Visual Politics”


Call for Papers for a Special Issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics

“Visual Politics”

Guest editors: Erik Bucy (, Texas Tech University
Jungseock Joo (, University of California at Los Angeles

Manuscript submission deadline: 15 December 2019

Images are both ubiquitous and consequential in contemporary politics. The rise of images in politics parallels the rise of images in society as icons of socio-political messaging, vessels of persuasive intent, and efficient carriers of social information for citizens of increasingly harried societies. From television coverage of campaigns and elections to visual memes and images of leaders circulated on social media, visual portrayals shape perceptions of the political world. When used strategically, visual portrayals hold the capacity to frame issues, candidates, and causes in a particular light and affect the acceptance or rejection of social policies. As representations of public opinion and leadership, political images influence issue understanding and motivate citizens to action.

Political visuals are potent in part because they do not require conventional literacy to apprehend and operate at both an individual and cultural level. From an information processing perspective, political images are highly efficient carriers of social and symbolic information that is quickly assessed, rapidly judged, and readily remembered. In news coverage, candidate portrayals and event depictions may crystallize sentiment among the viewing public and alternately inspire increased involvement or disenchantment with politics. Culturally, images can act as icons of social solidarity or political isolation, serving to mainstream or marginalize individuals, groups, and causes. The polysemic quality of images opens them to diverse interpretation, depending on the viewer’s orientation.

As forms of information, political images are not only open to interpretation but are also susceptible to digital manipulation. Image shading, facial blending, digital editing, and other alterations of political materials can have persuasive effects on audiences, raising troubling ethical concerns. More recently, the mass spread of “deepfakes”, i.e., manipulated video recordings, threatens to undermine the authenticity of recorded candidate communication and further confuse unsuspecting viewers, already buffeted by fabricated visual memes and text-based disinformation campaigns.

These and related considerations make the systematic study of political visuals and their effects necessary and urgent. Despite renewed interest in visual analysis within political communication, images remain an understudied feature of the contemporary political media landscape. This special issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics therefore invites original research conducted in any methodological tradition that fits the theme of “Visual Politics.” In this special issue, we hope to highlight new possibilities for theory development, methodological innovation, and cross-national approaches to advance the study of visual political communication.


Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The influence of political images in digital campaigns, including comparisons between online messaging, social media strategies, and more traditional forms of political advertising
  • The role of visual messaging in disinformation efforts, whether used to confuse, incite resentment, or demotivate potential voter or citizen involvement
  • Computational analysis of large-scale visual datasets to detect patterns of coverage or behavior not evident in smaller, hand-coded projects
  • Integrated or comparative analysis of multimodal cues in political messages and their synergistic or differential impacts on viewer perceptions
  • Visual analysis of protest and collection action, including visual framing of activism or demonstrations as well as visual memes circulated on social media
  • Cross-national comparisons of visual news framing of politics or protest and its reception by audiences
  • Viewer reception of newer visual technologies such as 360-degree video cameras to depict campaign events, demonstrations, marches, or other collective actions
  • Visual depictions of populist and fringe political actors, including signature gestures and nonverbal displays, expressive range, or performative repertoires
  • Effects of nonverbal aggression, norm violations, and other transgressive candidate behavior on viewers of political programming
  • Visual measures of negative advertising, incivility, “in your face”-style of candidate interaction, or other normatively fraught political communication styles
  • Visual analysis of hate speech and white nationalism, including identifiable signs and symbols as identified by the Anti-Defamation League and other watchdogs
  • The role of viewer orientations (e.g., ideology, partisanship, political interest, age cohort, moral outlook, geographical situatedness, issue attitudes) in shaping political image interpretations and message efficacy
  • The role of visual content in explaining patterns of news sharing on social media
  • The use of visuals in emerging genres of political campaign communication, whether mini-documentaries, mash-up advertising, candidate-generated videos, or political selfies.


Manuscript submissions for this special issue are due on 15 December 2019.
Please submit your work through our online submission portal and ensure that the first line of the cover letter states: “Manuscript to be considered for the special issue on Visual Politics”. Manuscripts should follow the IJPP submission guidelines. Submissions will be subject to a double-blind peer review process and must not have been published, accepted for publication, or under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Please note that, to ensure consistency, submissions will only be considered for peer review after the 15 December 2019 deadline has passed.

Authors interested in submitting their work are encouraged to contact the guest editors, Erik Bucy ( and Jungseock Joo ( with questions.


  • Paper submissions: 15 December 2019
  • First decision: 15 February 2020
  • Paper revisions: 15 April 2020
  • Final decision: 15 May 2020
  • Online publication: July 2020
  • Print publication: October 2020

New Report: News Sharing on UK Social Media: Misinformation, Disinformation & Correction

As part of the activities of the Online Civic Culture Centre at Loughborough University, Andrew Chadwick and I have written an extensive report on the extent to which misinformation and disinformation circulates and is corrected on social media in the UK. The full report can be downloaded on the website of the Online Civic Culture Centre.

Very little is known about the motivations that drive people to share political news on social media and how these might be contributing to changes in our online civic culture. If we can learn more about the things people try to achieve when they share news online—and the extent to which these motivations might reinforce or undermine the distribution of false or misleading information—liberal democracies can start to think about how they can reduce important online harms. This report is the first to address these issues in Britain on the basis of a survey of the news sharing habits on social media of a representative sample of the British public. It was authored by Professor Andrew Chadwick and Dr Cristian Vaccari. We gratefully acknowledge the support of O3C data partner Opinium Research, which provided its survey services pro bono.

Key Questions

  1. How widespread is the sharing of false and misleading political news among British social media users?
  2. To what extent is there a persistent and damaging “anything goes” culture among those who share political news on social media?
  3. To what extent does the correction of false and misleading news through the “wisdom of crowds”—a previously much-lauded feature of the internet—actually operate on British social media?

To answer these questions, we designed a survey and asked Opinium Research to administer it to an online sample representative of the UK adult population, based on key demographic variables such as age, gender, and region of residence. 2,005 respondents completed the questionnaire between July 5–16, 2018.

Summary of Key Findings

  • More than half of British social media users (57.7 percent) came across news in the past month on social media that they thought was not fully accurate.
  • 42.8 percent of news sharers admit to sharing inaccurate or false news; 17.3 percent admit to sharing news they thought was made up when they shared it. These users are more likely to be male, younger, and more interested in politics.
  • A substantial amount of the sharing on social media of inaccurate or made up news goes unchallenged. Fewer social media users (33.8 percent) report being corrected by other social media users than admit to sharing false or exaggerated news (42.8 percent). And 26.4 percent of those who shared inaccurate or made up news were not corrected. There are some grounds for optimism if we see this particular glass as half full: after all, almost three quarters of respondents who shared news that was exaggerated or made up also reported being reprimanded by other social media users.
  • However, the most problematic news sharing does not stimulate many social media users to correct the sharers: in total, only 8.5 percent of British social media users said that they reprimanded another social media user for sharing news that was made up.
  • Those who share news on social media are mainly motivated to inform others and express their feelings, but more civically-ambivalent motivations also play an important role. For example, almost a fifth of news sharers (18.7 percent) see upsetting others as an important motivation when they share news.
  • There are some partisan differences in sharing inaccurate or made up news on UK social media. Conservative supporters, and those with right-wing ideological beliefs, are more likely to share inaccurate news; they are also more likely to be reprimanded by others for doing so. Labour supporters, and those who hold left-wing ideological beliefs, are more likely to see inaccurate news and to correct other social media users for sharing it.
  • About one-third (31 percent) of British social media users share news on social media at least once a month. The demographic and behavioural profile of these users resembles that of the most politically active members of the general public—they are more likely to be male, have higher educational attainment, and be more interested in politics—although younger people are more likely than older people to share news.

Download the full report on the website of the Online Civic Culture Centre.


Speaking at International Conference on the Internet and New Forms of Political Participation in Lille

This week I am traveling to Lille to give a keynote speech at the international conference “Internet et les nouvelles formes de participation politique”. The conference has been organized as part of the project “Analyse Pluridisciplinaire du Pétitionnement En Ligne“, led by Jean-Gabriel Contamin from the Centre d’études et de recherche administratives, politiques et sociales at the Université de Lille.

My speech will focus on “Social Media and Political Participation in Comparative Perspective“. I will present some key ideas and findings from the project I led on this topic from 2012-2016 and that I am channeling into a book that I am writing with my colleague Augusto Valeriani from the University of Bologna.

The program is available here. If you are in the area and would like to attend, you can register using this form.