Social media, political polarisation, and political disinformation

Date Posted: May 27, 2019 Last Modified: May 27, 2019
Social media, political polarisation, and political disinformation: A review of the scientific literature Photo: Bovee and Thill, Flickr

This report provides an overview of the existing literature on the relationship between social media, political polarisation, and political disinformation which includes fake news, rumours, misinformation, politically biased information and "hyper partisan" news. The report concludes by identifies key gaps in our understanding of this phenomenon and the data that is needed to address them. 

  • The literature review found no real consensus across academic literature on how to define the phenomenon of fake news on social media.
  • Future research would benefit from building a common set of definitions on the following topics: online political conversations, disinformation, media classifiers, online actors.
  • Most social science research leans towards establishing causal links as opposed to measuring the prevalence of the phenomena. This derails policymakers from making smart policy decisions based on a good understanding about the prevalence of activities in order to assess the costs and benefits of proposed policy changes.
  • There is a lack of research on how individuals react to exposure to fake news and the causal mechanism which may help explain opinion change.
  • Most social media research involves data from Twitter. The research findings suggest more Facebook-focused research in order to better understand US politics. Additional research also needs to be done on the relationship between traditional media and social media.