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Talking Politics Online: How Facebook Generates Clicks But Undermines Discussion

7 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2015  

Rolf Fredheim

University of Cambridge

Alfred Moore

University of Cambridge

Date Written: November 4, 2015

Abstract

Many citizens in advanced democracies read and discuss the news online through social media platforms. How does this change influence deliberative quality? We compare three commenting architectures used by the Huffington Post between January 2013 - February 2015, characterised respectively by easy anonymity, stable pseudonyms, and real name identities through Facebook. These phases provide a natural experiment with which to compare a number of indicators of argumentative engagement. We find that across the board, pseudonymous commenting yielded much higher levels of reason giving than either anonymous or Facebook’s real name environment. By focusing not on exposure to cross-cutting information but rather on the quality of discursive engagement, our study adds an important corrective to recent research (1) addressing the potential effect of Facebook on polarization.

Keywords: deliberation, polarization, public sphere, commenting, anonymity, identities online

Suggested Citation

Fredheim, Rolf and Moore, Alfred, Talking Politics Online: How Facebook Generates Clicks But Undermines Discussion (November 4, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2686164 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2686164

Rolf Fredheim (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Alfred Moore

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

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