False News on Facebook during the 2017 Chilean Elections: Analyzing Its Content, Diffusion, and Audience Characteristics

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Abstract

With its high levels of social media use and online political participation but decreasing levels of voter turnout and institutional confidence, Chile is particularly at risk of the spread of mis- and disinformation. The little scientific evidence that exists suggests Chileans are highly exposed to political rumors and conspiracies. Against this background, this research project aims to examine the breadth, sharing, and users’ consumption of misinformation on Facebook during the 2017 Chilean presidential election campaign. Specifically, the project tackles four research goals: (1) to measure exposure and sharing of false news relative to verified news; (2) to determine the content attributes that predict misinformation sharing; (3) to analyze users’ emotional reactions (like, sad, angry, etc.) to false news relative to verified news; and (4) to build a sociodemographic profile of exposure to misinformation to analyze whether voters were more exposed than nonvoters to false news.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Sebastián Valenzuela

Associate Professor at the School of Communication & Associate Researcher of the Millennium Institute for Foundational Research on Data, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

  • Bio ▾

    Sebastián Valenzuela is an associate professor in the School of Communications at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Tinker Visiting Professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. His research concerns the role of journalism and social media on public opinion. He is also an associate researcher at both the Millennium Institute for Foundational Research on Data (IMFD) and the National Research Center for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (CIGIDEN). There, he studies information and misinformation acquisition on social media. He has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, and his work has been awarded by several associations, including the International Communication Association (ICA) and the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR). Currently, he is editor-in-chief of Cuadernos.info, a journal specialized in communications in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain, and chairs the Latin American advisory committee for Social Science One. He also sits on the editorial board of several scientific publications, including the Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Digital Journalism, and the International Journal of Public Opinion Research. Valenzuela completed his PhD in 2011 at the University of Texas at Austin.

Magdalena Saldaña

Assistant Professor in Journalism, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

  • Bio ▾

    Magdalena Saldaña is an assistant professor in the School of Communications at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where she teaches journalism and social media, data visualization, and research methods. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in social research, both from Universidad de Concepción, Chile, and a PhD in journalism and mass communication from the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include digital journalism, social media, political communication, and Latin American studies. Her work has been awarded by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) and the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR). In addition, she has received a number of important awards in recognition for academic achievement and excellence in journalism education.

Participants

Benjamín Bustos

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Universidad de Chile

  • Bio ▾

    Benjamín Bustos received a doctoral degree in natural sciences from the University of Konstanz, Germany, in 2006. He is an associate professor with the Department of Computer Science, University of Chile. He is head of the PRISMA Research Group, and he is also an associate researcher with the Millennium Institute for Foundational Research on Data (IMFD). He leads research projects in the domain of content-based multimedia information retrieval. His research interests include similarity search, 3D object retrieval, multimedia mining, semantic web, metric/nonmetric indexing, and pattern recognition.

Juan Pablo Luna

Professor of Political Science, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

  • Bio ▾

    Juan Pablo Luna is a professor in the Institute of Political Science at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He received his BA in applied social sciences from the Universidad Católica del Uruguay (UCUDAL) and his PhD in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Segmented Representation: Political Party Strategies in Unequal Democracies (Oxford University Press, 2014) and coauthor of Latin American Party Systems (Cambridge University Press, 2010). In 2014, along with Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, he coedited The Resilience of the Latin American Right (Johns Hopkins University Press). His work on political representation, state capacity, and organized crime has appeared in the following journals: Comparative Political Studies, Revista de Ciencia Política, the Journal of Latin American Studies, Latin American Politics and Society, Studies in Comparative International Development, Política y Gobierno, Democratization, Perfiles Latinoamericanos, and the Journal of Democracy. He is currently associate editor of Latin American Politics and Society and coedits Cambridge University Press Elements’ Politics and Society in Latin America.

Jorge Pérez

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Universidad de Chile

  • Bio ▾

    Jorge Pérez is associate professor in the Computer Science Department at Universidad de Chile and associate researcher at the Millennium Institute for Foundational Research on Data (IMFD). His research interests include data exchange and integration, semantic data management, natural language processing, and the theory of deep neural networks. He has received several awards for his research, including the best paper award in five international conferences (ISWC2006 in Atlanta, USA; ESWC2007 in Innsbruck, Austria; PODS2011 in Athens, Greece; WWW2012 in Lyon, France; and ISWC2017 in Vienna, Austria), the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship (Redmond, USA, 2009), the Ramón Salas-Edwards Award from the Engineering Institute of Chile (2012), and the Semantic Web Science Association Ten-Years Award (Kobe, Japan, 2016) for his work on the SPARQL query language. His interests also include the analysis of social and political data and the inclusion of computational thinking skills at the school level in Chile.

Bárbara Poblete

Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Universidad de Chile

  • Bio ▾

    Barbara Poblete is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Universidad de Chile and associate researcher at the Millennium Institute for Foundational Research on Data (IMFD). She holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain. She was a researcher for Yahoo! Labs for five years, first in Barcelona and then in Santiago. Her research areas are web data mining, social network analysis, and web IR. She is associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering Journal, editorial board member for Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval (FnTIR), and senior PC member for the conferences SIGIR and KDD (and PC member of several other top-tier conferences in her areas). Her work on time-sensitive credibility in microblogging platforms, published in WWW 2011 and in the Internet Research Journal (2013), was the first on this particular topic (with ~2,300 citations according to Google Scholar), and has been featured in mainstream media such as Scientific American magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Slate, the Huffington Post, BBC News, and NPR.

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