Patterns of Facebook Interactions around Insular and Cross-Partisan Media Sources in the Run-up of the 2018 Italian Election

Università di Urbino Carlo Bo

Abstract

Before, during, and after the 2018 Italian election, several controversial cases raised concerns over the impact of problematic information on the democratic process. Mapping Italian News (MINE) was designed to address these concerns by analyzing a set of political news stories and their patterns of engagement on Facebook and Twitter. We estimated the political leaning and insularity of 634 news sources, found that populist parties tend to rely on insular media sources, and detected patterns of interactions on Facebook that seem to be significantly affected by the insularity of the source and the sentiment toward different political actors. This project is conceived as a follow-up of MINE. Limits in publicly available data hindered investigating the crucial question of whether the observed behaviors of online partisan communities are strategically organized or spontaneously grassroots. Grounded in existing literature, we thus designed a set of measures and related research questions to tackle this issue.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

Fabio Giglietto

Associate Professor, Università di Urbino Carlo Bo

  • Bio ▾

    Fabio Giglietto, PhD, is an associate professor at the Department of Communication Sciences, Humanities and International Studies at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo, where he also teaches social media analysis. His main research interests are theory of information, communication, and society with a specific focus on the relationship between social systems and new technologies. On these topics, he has published extensively in journals such as the Journal of Communication; Information, Communication and Society; Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media; Social Media + Society; and Social Science Computer Review.

    Since 2010, he has been a member of the board of the Research Committee 51 on Sociocybernetics of the International Sociological Association. He is also a member of the International Communication Association, the Association of Internet Researchers, and the Italian Association of Political Communication. Since 2014 he has been the editor of the Journal of Sociocybernetics (ISSN 1607-86667).

    In 2017, he led Mapping Italian News Media Political Coverage in the Lead-up of 2018 General Election (https://elezioni2018.news/). This project was supported, in part, by a grant from the Foundation Open Society Institute in cooperation with the Information Program of the Open Society Foundations.

    A full, up-to-date list of publications is available at https://goo.gl/pbXyBd.

Participants

Laura Iannelli

Assistant Professor, Università di Sassari

  • Bio ▾

    Laura Iannelli (PhD) is an assistant professor in sociology of culture and communication at the University of Sassari (Italy), where she teaches political communication, public relations, and digital media and communication.

    Her primary research addresses the complex practices of participation in the production and circulation of political information within the contemporary media ecosystems. She has extensively published on these topics. Her authored works include two monographs: Hybrid Politics: Media and Participation (Sage, 2016) and Facebook & co: Sociologia dei social media (Guerini, 2010). She is a member of the editorial board of the international scientific journal ICS - Information, Communication & Society.

    In 2017, she was granted principal investigator of a two-year research project entitled Facebook & Co: Disinformation in the Hybrid Media System by the Autonomous Region of Sardinia. The project developed innovative survey techniques that leverage the Facebook Ads system; a paper was published in 2018 in Social Science Computer Review. Since November 2017, she has participated in the research network activated on the project entitled Mapping Italian News Media Political Coverage in the Lead-up of 2018 General Election (MINE), funded by Open Society Foundations and coordinated by Professor Fabio Giglietto (University of Urbino).

Giada Marino

PhD Candidate, Università di Urbino Carlo Bo

  • Bio ▾

    Giada Marino is a PhD candidate at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo in sociology of communication, and her dissertation is focused on ephemeral user-generated content and online self-presentation. She is coauthor of the book chapter “Binge-Watching the Algorithmic Catalog: Making Sense of Netflix in the Aftermath of the Italian Launch,” in the volume Netflix at the Nexus: Content, Practice, and Production in Streaming Television, edited by Peter Lang (forthcoming). In February 2018, she attended the Digital Media Research Center Summer School at Queensland University of Technology. Since December 2017, she has been a member of Mapping Italian News Media Political Coverage in the Lead-up of 2018 General Election research team as a junior research assistant. In July 2017, she attended the Digital Methods Initiative Summer School at the University of Amsterdam.

Nicola Righetti

Postdoctoral Researcher, Università di Urbino Carlo Bo

  • Bio ▾

    Nicola Righetti, PhD in sociology and social research, is a research fellow at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo, member of the Mapping Italian News project team, and temporary professor of sociology at the University of Verona (Italy). His research interests are in the field of sociology of culture and communication, with a focus on digital and computational methods, data mining and text mining techniques, and R software.

Luca Rossi

Associate Professor, IT University of Copenhagen

  • Bio ▾

    Luca Rossi is associate professor in the Department of Digital Design of the IT University of Copenhagen and scientific coordinator of the Data Science & Society Lab. He is active in the field of digital methods for social sciences. His research has always been highly interdisciplinary, trying to connect traditional sociological approaches with computational approaches. He did research on online social network sites and online information propagation during crisis events. At the same time, he worked on extending social network analysis techniques for social media analysis. Within this field of research, he is working on new approaches for unstructured communities detection and mapping based on the study of multiplex networks.

Augusto Valeriani

Associate Professor, Università di Bologna

  • Bio ▾

    Augusto Valeriani (PhD, Siena University, Italy) is associate professor in sociology of communication at the Political and Social Sciences Department of the University of Bologna and codirector of the master’s in new media and marketing communication at BBS, the University of Bologna Business School. His research focuses on political communication, digital media, and journalism. He is also a member of the academic board of the PhD program in political and social sciences of the University of Bologna and was a visiting research fellow at the University of Westminster, London (2005–2006) and at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (2009–2010). Valeriani has published three monographs and several book chapters on topics related to journalism studies, political communication, and global communication, with a focus on digital media. He has authored articles appearing in several international journals, including Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication; New Media and Society; International Journal of Press/Politics; Information, Communication and Society; Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication; Sage Open; and Italian Political Science Review.

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