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How Digital Media is affecting

Democracy

Parnil Singh | 0265/55


Neha Bansod | 0242/55
INTRODUCTION
The purpose of our report is to examine evolution of source of citizens’ political awareness with the rise of
digital media as well as how democracy overall is being influenced by new forms of media. With the spurt of
digital media, citizens, especially younger generations, are resorting to using more of social media sources as
compared to traditional sources. To analyze the same, we have thoroughly analyzed **4 research reports** to
understand the changing landscape of news sources and influence on elections. We also conducted a small
survey to understand what IIM Calcutta students are using as their news sources.
To demonstrate, we shall examine two very interesting campaigns that took place across different continents.
The first is 2017 French elections, when Emmanuel Macron emerged as the winner and the second is the 2016
USA elections, where Trump was elected.

CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF SOURCES OF NEWS MEDIA


We wanted to understand news consumption pattern of the users. According to a report by Young and Eric
titled ‘How Millennials Get News: Inside the Habits of America’s First Digital Generation’, it is observed that
millennials do not consume news in discrete sessions or deliberately consume it. Instead it is woven around
them in the form of social media, infotainment, social connections and other ways. Based on the paper "News
in Social Media" by Bergström & Belfrage, the users believe that they incidentally stumble upon news articles
while using social media and it is because of the likes and shares by their friend circle. The users do not
essentially mind this incidental consumption and in fact find it a part of their social media usage. In a way,
they do not seek news deliberately but happen to stumble upon it. Another paper ‘It’s Only a Pastime, Really’:
Young People’s Experiences of Social Media as a Source of News about Public Affairs’ by Sveningsson and
Malin states that news that people find on social media is just for past time consumption and that they do
not take it seriously or delve over it. Thus formation of strong opinions does not take place due to passive
consumption of news. There's also an article titled "Of course, social media is transforming politics" posted in
World Economic Forum which states that based on the friend circle and page likes, users create a polarized
environment around them and fall prey to fake news that confirms with their ideologies. However, the article
argues that it's not the algorithm but the social media environment itself that results in this polarization. We
also studied an interesting paper "Followers Are Opinion Leaders: The Role of People in the Flow of Political
Communication on and beyond Social Networking Sites" by Karlsen and Rune which looks at the role of
opinion leaders on social media and how ideas spread through social networking sites (SNS).

SURVEY OF STUDENTS
We tried to understand sources young peoples prefer for news. We found out that most almost 70% of
students spend less than 1 hour on news. Almost the same ratio preferred digital media to print media for
news consumption. In digital media, the most popular channel were news apps with short news like Inshorts
and digital versions of newspapers. However when it came to shaping political campaigns, people relied most
on traditional newspapers like Hindu and opinions of popular people on Twitter, underlining the importance
of digital media.

THE 2017 FRENCH ELECTIONS


The paper “The Digital Born and Legacy News Media on Twitter during French Elections” by Silvia Majó-
Vázquez, Jun Zhao and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen presents the how things shaped up on Twitter during the
elections. We try to understand the current media landscape through the lens of French elections. As we
understand the facts, we would then analyze and assess the complex relationship between judgement forming
and media.

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It is important to distinguish between three elements here – legacy media, digital born media and social media
platform Twitter. While the first and third elements form part of digital media, it is important to understand
twitter as a platform to disseminate information of legacy and digital media. France is interesting as most of
the people get their news from social media. An important issue which emerged was that while many legacy
and digital media players in spite of having lot of activity in form of tweets and followers, did not witness high
engagement.
The primary data analyzed was in the form of tweets. Legacy media formed the bulk of tweet volume.
Moreover, the volume varied a lot with major political events, like presidential debate dates and polling days.
In contrast, digital media mentions were much lower and much more smoothed out.
An important step to understand the influence was to examine relation between audience engagement and
the relationship established. An interesting insight is that the weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaine reached
a very high level of attention on Twitter without having much presence on the platform. This establishes that
offline content can drive Twitter reaction.
Another important insight is that attention and engagement is very unevenly distributed with even highly
active accounts getting less attention.
Junk news is another problem that plagues political events. In case of French elections, the number of junk
news tweets is lower as compared to the USA elections. Most of the tweets concerned with French elections
pointed to high quality professional news, pointing to the fact that good professional journalism still holds
value.

THE 2016 US ELECTIONS


The paper “ The 2016 US Election: Can Democracy survive the Internet” by Nathaniel Persily discusses the
overwhelming effects of internet and digital median on US elections. The US elections is one of the most
important events which highlights disintegration of legacy media around the world and the fact that they
have lost most of their power around the world. And internet media left no stone unturned to fill the void
left by these institutes.
In case of elections, it is important to consider the two way effect, one is the influence on general public,
however another important aspect is that politicians use these media channels to run their political
campaigns. The engagement of these platforms with the party has changed as can be seen with teams from
Google, Twitter and Facebook sitting in a single room wit Trump. Trump also made extensive use of now-
defunct Facebook-Live, wherein he live streamed his presidential debates. As in French elections, Trump
employed Twitter a lot, with a billion tweets exploding from his account. An interesting insight here is that
while Trump was getting less coverage, he unleashed tweetstorms which fed into other media sources, as
contrasted with French elections, where traditional media sources fed into Twitter. This points to a dangerous
development, a person’s tweets were literally forming the content of media sources.
Some things about this elections are quite horrific. The way Internet reacted and adapted to the introduction
of the Trump campaign like an ecosystem welcoming a new and foreign species. His candidacy triggered new
strategies and promoted established Internet forces. Some of these were moved by ideological affinity, while
others sought to profit financially or to further a geopolitical agenda.

Closely related to this phenomenon is the rise of fake news. This is related to concept of clickbait, wherein
some organizations and individuals realized that fake news garnered a lot of attention. Fake news purveyors
were able to rake in close to $30K per month with outrageous stories like FBI agent killed after leaking
Clinton’s emails. The scariest part of fake news is that it can fan cynicism regarding candidates and elections.
Another phenomenon which afflicted both French and US elections is the rise of bots, on which we again
conduct detailed study.

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FUTURE OUTLOOK AND GLOBAL ANALYSIS
While we try to look at French and US elections more closely, we want to establish that this is not a
phenomenon that is confined to just two countries, but is increasingly becoming a global phenomenon and
afflicting several countries. The following infographic shows how scale has this achieved globally.

We are following a bottoms up approach wherein we first analyse two popular political events and then
analyse the bigger global picture. Our report further analyses this phenomenon and its scale and how it is
poised to change the way opinions shape and democracies operate permanently.

References
[1] Bossetta, M. (2018). The Digital Architectures of Social Media: Comparing Political Campaigning on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat in the 2016 U.S. Election. Journalism & Mass
Communication Quarterly.

[2] Clementine Desigaud, P. N. (2017). Junk News and Bots during the French Presidential Election: What
Are French Voters Sharing Over Twitter In Round Two? COMPROP DATA MEMO.

[3] Enli, G. (2017). Twitter as arena for the authentic outsider: exploring the social media campaigns of
Trump and Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. European Journal of Communication.

[4] Persily, N. (2017). The 2016 U.S. Election: Can Democracy Survive the Internet? Johns Hopkins University
Press.

[5] Silvia Majó-Vázquez, J. Z. (2017). The Digital-Born and Legacy News Media on Twitter during the French
Presidential Elections. Reuters Institute for Study of Journalism, Oxford University.

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