SHARENEWS: Predicting the Shareworthiness of ‘Real’ and ‘Fake’ News in Europe

University of Amsterdam

Abstract

Given the central role that information plays in democratic societies, one of the pressing challenges for the social sciences is to better understand which information (news, but also disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation) citizens are exposed to. While traditional media are still the main source of information for some groups of citizens, in other groups, this exposure is increasingly shaped by what others share on social media. However, our understanding of what actually gets shared, or not, is limited. The proposed project aims at explaining and predicting the sharing of information in the domain of news and politics in four European multiparty systems—Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland. We know from decades of research on news values that some characteristics inherent to or ascribed to news events (such as the relevance, importance, unique character, or involvement of elite actors) influence what is considered newsworthy; in addition, the specific framing of a news story (for instance, putting an emphasis on conflict or human interest) can lead to increased attention. We have comparatively little evidence, though, about the role of these features when it comes to the shareworthiness of news. We then compare whether these features have a different role when comparing legitimate news with so-called fake news, when comparing mobile devices with desktops/laptops, and when comparing countries.

Research Team

Principal Investigator

Damian Trilling

Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam

  • Bio ▾

    Dr. Damian Trilling is a tenured assistant professor affiliated with the Political Communication & Journalism program group within the Department of Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam. He focuses on using computational methods to study communication in the domain of news and politics, especially in an online context. He publishes on news sharing on social media, including Facebook, as well as on computational methods to analyze large-scale social media data. He has both domain expertise and technical expertise, including the use of cloud computing environments, databases (both SQL and NoSQL), and programming in languages like Python for computational social science. In earlier work, he combined techniques of web scraping, querying the Facebook API, natural language processing, and machine learning in order to understand the "shareworthiness" of news stories, a concept that has subsequently been addressed by other researchers, too. He is founding assistant editor of the journal Computational Communication Research.

Participants

Wouter van Atteveldt

Associate Professor, Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam

  • Bio ▾

    Wouter van Atteveldt (1980, PhD in artificial intelligence in 2008) is associate professor in the Department of Communication Science at Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam. He has published on text analysis of political communication and methodology in political science, journalism, and statistics. He received a veni-grant in 2011 for a study of political discourse using computational methods, a Digging into Data challenge grant in 2017 for a global comparative analysis of news coverage about terrorism since 1945, and recently, a JEDS/NWO grant to measure online news consumption and study the prevalence and effects of filter bubbles. He taught courses on political communication and public opinion, a summer school on Big Data, and gives workshops on text analysis. He developed the Amsterdam Content Analysis Toolkit (AmCat), developed packages for the analysis of text data in R, and is cofounder of the Interest Group on Computational Methods of the International Communication Association (ICA).

Denis Halagiera

PhD Candidate, Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan

  • Bio ▾

    Denis Halagiera is a PhD student at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. His research interests include digital misinformation, disinformation, and fact-checking.

Jakub Jakubowski

Assistant Professor, Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan

  • Bio ▾

    Jakub Jakubowski is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. His main research interests are in the field of populism, social media, and the role of citizens in political communication. He has participated in domestic and international projects about populism, such as COST Action. Besides research work, he is cocreator of ProScholars, an online platform for academic research promotion.

Juhi Kulshrestha

Postdoctoral Researcher, GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

  • Bio ▾

    Juhi Kulshrestha is a postdoctoral researcher at the Computational Social Science Department at GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne, Germany. Prior to that she obtained her PhD from the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS), Germany. Her research focuses on studying the bias and diversity in news and information that users consume on online social media and on evaluating the role played by automated retrieval algorithms, like search and recommendation systems, in shaping the users' information diets. She has developed frameworks for measuring the bias and diversity in the news and information that users are consuming via algorithmic recommendation and search systems on web and social media platforms. More information at: www.juhikulshrestha.com.

Judith Moeller

Assistant Professor of Political Communication, University of Amsterdam

  • Bio ▾

    Judith Moeller is an assistant professor of political communication at the University of Amsterdam. Her research areas are media effects on political participation, the effect of emerging technologies on democracies, and AI and news use.

Cornelius Puschmann

Senior Researcher, Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research

  • Bio ▾

    Cornelius Puschmann is senior researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research in Hamburg, where he coordinates the international research network Algorithmed Public Spheres and the HBI’s activities in the area of computational social science. From January to July 2013, Puschmann was a visiting fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, and from September 2013 to August 2014 he was visiting assistant professor in the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Media Studies. From 2015 to 2016, he also served as visiting professor of digital communication at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen. From fall 2015 to 2016, he was a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Puschmann has a background in communication and information science and is interested in the study of online hate speech, the role of algorithms in the selection of media content, and methodological aspects of computational social science. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media and Global Perspectives.

Agnieszka Stępińska

Professor, Adam Mickiewicz University

  • Bio ▾

    Agnieszka Stępińska is a professor at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. Her main area of research is political communication. She also conducts studies on journalism and media content. She participated in several international research projects, including Foreign News on TV, the COST ACTION IS1308 Populist Political Communication in Europe, Comprehending the Challenge of Mediated Political Populism for Democratic Politics, and Journalistic Role Performance Around the Globe.

Sebastian Stier

Senior Researcher, GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

  • Bio ▾

    Sebastian Stier is a senior researcher in the Department of Computational Social Science at GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne. His research focuses on the use of digital media by political elites and the reception of their messages by citizens. He is integrating digital trace data and methods from computational social science with approaches from the fields of political communication, political behavior, and comparative politics.

Cristian Vaccari

Reader in Political Communication, Loughborough University and University of Bologna

  • Bio ▾

    Cristian Vaccari (PhD, IULM University in Milan, 2006) is reader in political communication at the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University. He studies political communication by elites and citizens in comparative perspective using a variety of methods. He is the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics and the author of Digital Politics in Western Democracies: A Comparative Study (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). His personal website can be found at www.cristianvaccari.com. He tweets as @25lettori.

Claes de Vreese

Full Professor, University of Amsterdam

  • Bio ▾

    Claes H. de Vreese is professor and chair of political communication and director of the program group Political Communication & Journalism in the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR) in the Department of Communication Science, University of Amsterdam. He directs the U Amsterdam Research Priority Area Communication and Personalised Communication. He is the founding director of the Center for Politics and Communication. Finally, he is affiliated professor of political science and journalism at the University of Southern Denmark. His research interests include comparative journalism research, the effects of news, public opinion, and European integration, and the effects of information and campaigning on elections, referendums, and direct democracy.

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