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Search and Politics: Fake News, Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles july2017

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These slides provide the basic talking points for a series of talks I did in Paris, Rome and Berlin from the 11th through the 13th of July 2017. The talk was based on the Quello Center project on 'The Part Played by Search in Shaping Public Opinion', which was supported by a grant from Google.

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Search and Politics: Fake News, Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles july2017

  1. 1. A Critical Perspective on Fake News, Echo Chambers, and Filter Bubbles William H. Dutton @BiIIDutton Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy Quello Center, Michigan State University @QuelloCenter Paris, Rome, Berlin, 11-13 July 2017
  2. 2. Panic Fake News Filter Bubbles Echo Chambers Immediatefuture.co.uk Medium.com
  3. 3. The Part Played by Search in Shaping Political Opinion • Quello Center team in collaboration with the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford and Department of Communication, University of Ottawa • Professor William H. Dutton (Quello) • Dr. Bianca C. Reisdorf (Quello) • Dr. Grant Blank (OII) • Dr. Elizabeth Dubois (Ottawa) • With the assistance of: • Craig Robertson (PhD Student, Quello) • Sabrina Ahmed (BA Student, Ottawa) • Support from Google, with thanks to Jon Steinberg
  4. 4. Centrality of Information to Democratic Processes Mass Media •News, Radio, Television, and the Fourth Estate The Internet and Search •Search Engines, Algorithms, Social Media, User Choice, and a Fifth Estate
  5. 5. The Role of Search? Enable citizens to make well political decisions? Distort the information citizens gain access to and choose in taking political decisions and actions?
  6. 6. Key Questions How do media and search shape public opinion and actions? How does personalization shape the results of search? Creating a filter bubble? How does populism shape search and vice versa? Social media creating surges, and echo chambers?
  7. 7. Technological Determinism • More Informed Rational Citizens, Voters • Social Media Movements, Surges • Filter Bubbles Social Determinism • Spiral of Silence • Power Law • Echo Chambers Social and Technical Shaping of Democratic Processes • Agenda Setting • Cue Taking and Giving (“group think”) - Two-Step Flow • Werther Effects • Fifth Estate (enabled by search and social media) Multiple Theoretical Perspectives
  8. 8. Approach: Cross-National Comparative Research Report on Search and Politics Review of Literature Comparative Trace Data Comparative Survey of 7 nations Britain France Germany Italy Poland Spain United States 14,000 Internet Users, January 2017
  9. 9. Comparative Approach Literature Review Survey Questionnaire Trace Data
  10. 10. Comparative Questions How national, regional cultures and media systems might shape patterns of search? Will individual differences matter more or less?
  11. 11. The Centrality of Search Origins in WWW as Mountain of Trash Becoming the first place people go for information After email, search is one of the most common use of the Internet Politics is a limited, specialized topic of search
  12. 12. Frequency of Using a Search Engine France Germany Italy Poland Spain UK US Total Never 1.4 0.14 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.5 1.1 0.54 Less than monthly 1.4 2.02 0.8 0.1 0.6 2.5 3 1.5 Monthly 1.8 2.4 0.8 0.2 1.4 2.4 2.4 1.62 Weekly 12.1 17.5 6.9 2.7 6.5 14.2 11.3 10.1 Daily 22.5 28.9 19.3 21.8 19.8 24.3 20 22.4 Greater than once per day 60.9 49.0 72.1 75 71.4 56.2 62.3 63.85 Total N 1,972 1,972 1,979 1,992 1,989 1,961 1,995 13,859 Total percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
  13. 13. The Purpose of Search 3.19 3.19 3.22 3.44 3.57 3.66 3.87 3.97 0 1 2 3 4 Mean results out of 5 Find entertaining content Politics and current events Medical or health questions Check accuracy of news,info Look up news on topic, event Look up fact(s) Navigation to sites Info about particular topic 0=never; 4=very often
  14. 14. Politics in the World of Search: Google Trends in Search: 2010 to 2016 0 2 4 6 8 10 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Year Political Possibly political Not political The top ten most commonly searched general terms, news/events, and people for the years 2010 to 2016 were collected and analyzed using data retrieved from Google’s annual “Zeitgeist” and Year in Review features.
  15. 15. The Reliability of Search: A Learned Level of Trust As reliable as other major sources, e.g., TV Internet users in Poland, Italy, and Spain more trusting in search than those in Germany, France, and Britain One of first places people go for information about politics
  16. 16. Reliability of Different Sources 2.69 3.35 3.41 3.41 3.47 3.49 3.52 0 1 2 3 4 Mean results out of 5 Social media Television Newspapers Online news Family, friends, colleagues Radio Search engine results 0=not reliable at all; 4=totally reliable
  17. 17. Reliability of Search Engine Results France Germany Italy Poland Spain UK US Total 1 Total unreliable 2.6 2.6 1.7 0.7 0.7 1.5 1.1 1.5 2 7.9 8.3 5.6 6.1 7.5 6.9 5.7 6.8 3 39.9 44.8 37 36.6 36.9 40.7 39 39.2 4 40.7 38.1 46.9 46.8 44.8 42.6 42.8 43.3 5 Total reliable 9 6.3 8.9 9.8 10.1 8.3 11.4 9.1 Total N 1,910 1,920 1,938 1,958 1,966 1,895 1,950 13,537 Total percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
  18. 18. The Diversity of Sources Those interested in politics look at multiple (4.5) sources of information More than two (2.4) offline, and more than two (2.1) online Search engines the most frequent online source
  19. 19. Multiple Sources of Information about Politics 1.53 1.82 2.13 2.24 2.31 2.50 2.51 N ever Som etim es O ften Very often Mean results out of 4 Charities, religious groups Political websites Radio Print news Family & friends Online sources TV
  20. 20. Online Sources of Information about Politics 2.36 2.52 2.54 2.88 3.02 3.07 3.49 N ever R arely Som etim es O ften Very often Mean results out of 5 Political website Email Online video platforms Social media Online sites of news & mags Online news sites Search engines
  21. 21. The Diversity of Views Encountered Online 36 percent of sample read news they disagree with ‘often’ or ‘very often'’ Less than 20 percent un-friend or block others Diversity of Views Among People Communicated with Online (Table 4.25) • 15%: Views Different from you • 65%: Mixed Beliefs • 20%: Same as you
  22. 22. Diversity of Views on Social Networks Social Media Research (OxIS, et al) • Maintains and enhances existing ties, over space • Introduces new people, friends, meet in person Diversifies the News Diet • 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report • News and politics not the central role of social media • Social media use increases incidental exposure to additional news sources, with more politically diverse news Social, not Politically Centric, Media
  23. 23. Users Check, Confirm, Information Multiple approaches to confirming information Over 80 percent use search to check facts Three fourths (74%) use search to check information on social media
  24. 24. Practices Tied to Confirming a Story 2.70 2.87 2.92 3.08 3.15 3.16 N ever R arely Som etim es O ften Very often Mean results out of 5 Look for opinion of trusted source Ask friend or family to confirm Check different news sources Check major offline news Confirm by searching online Read something disagree with
  25. 25. Other Patterns that Bust Bubbles 76 percent occasionally or often find information they were not looking for (serendipity) through search 48 percent ‘often’ learn something new – serendipity Many recognize ‘wrong’ information
  26. 26. Relative Prevalence of Practices 1.27 1.68 2.13 2.35 0 .5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 Mean results out of 5 Changed opinion on political issue Find wrong information Discovered important information Learn something new 0=never; 3=often
  27. 27. Search Matters: Outcomes Perceived to leads some to change their opinion on an issue Two-thirds of respondents say search was important to their voting decisions
  28. 28. Importance of Online Search to Voting France Germany Italy Poland Spain UK US Total Not important 41.7 34.5 27.4 21.1 33.3 40.5 21 31.7 Important 58.3 65.5 72.6 78.9 66.7 59.5 79 68.3 Total N 1,496 1,486 1,666 1,129 1,617 1,559 1,568 10,520 Total percent 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
  29. 29. • Google Studie • Forschungsfragen • Methodologie • Erste Resultate • Bedeutung • Diskussion Factors Shaping Individual Differences in Search
  30. 30. Individual Factors Shaping Strong Search Practices Political • Interest in Politics • Online political participation Internet • Skills • Levels of Internet Use • Mobile, Next Generation Users Information • Diversity of Sources • Learned Level of Trust
  31. 31. Key Issues Moving Forward Theoretical Perspectives • Be more critical of deterministic perspectives • Don’t underestimate users & social shaping of search Interest in Politics • Are those least interested & involved more vulnerable? Skills in Search and Internet • Are those offline or least skilled at greater risk? • Can digital media literacy reduce risks?
  32. 32. Mitigating Problems Search for Info about Politics Diversity of Sources/Viewpoints Check, Confirm, Information Learn Something New Don’t Censor Others Fifth Estate, Not Mass Media
  33. 33. The Report Plus Dutton, W.H., Reisdorf, B.C., Dubois, E., and Blank, G. (2017), Search and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States, Quello Center Working Paper available on SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2960697 Dutton, W.H. (2017), ‘Fake News, Echo Chambers, and Filter Bubbles: Underresearched and Overhyped’: https://theconversation.com/fake- news-echo-chambers-and-filter-bubbles-underresearched-and-overhyped-76688 Dutton, W. H. (2017), ‘Bubblebusters’, NESTA. http://readie.eu/bubblebusters- countering-fake-news-filter-bubbles-and-echo-chambers/

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