In this report, we provide a comprehensive overview of the scholarly literature on the relationship between three factors that may be undermining the quality of democracy: social media usage, political polarization, and the prevalence of disinformation online.
Tucker, Joshua A., Andrew Guess, Pablo Barbera, Cristian Vaccari, Alexandra Siegel, Sergey Sanovich, Denis Stukal, and Brendan Nyhan. “Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation: A Review of the Scientific Literature.” SSRN Electronic Journal, (2018). https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3144139
Mar 19, 2018
Area of Study
The following report is intended to provide an overview of the current state of the literature on the relationship between social media; political polarization; and political “disinformation,” a term used to encompass a wide range of types of information about politics found online, including “fake news,” rumors, deliberately factually incorrect information, inadvertently factually incorrect information, politically slanted information, and “hyperpartisan” news. The review of the literature is provided in six separate sections, each of which can be read individually but that cumulatively are intended to provide an overview of what is known—and unknown—about the relationship between social media, political polarization, and disinformation. The report concludes by identifying key gaps in our understanding of these phenomena and the data that are needed to address them.
Following a relatively brief period of euphoria about the possibility that social media might usher in a golden age of global democratization, there is now widespread concern in many segments of society — including the media, scholars, the philanthropic community, civil society, and even politicians themselves — that social media may instead be undermining democracy.
For this report, we provide a comprehensive overview of the scholarly literature on the relationship between three factors that may be undermining the quality of democracy: social media usage, political polarization, and the prevalence of “disinformation” online. The second purpose of this report is to identify key research gaps in our understanding of the relationships between social media, political polarization, disinformation, and democratic quality. We also identify important data needs in this field of research.
This comprehensive literature review covers six topics, covered by our specialists in the field. The six topics are Online Political Conversations; The Consequences of Exposure to Disinformation and Propaganda in Online Settings; Producers of Disinformation; Strategies and Tactics of Spreading Disinformation through Online Platforms; Online Content and Political Polarization; and How Misinformation and Polarization Affect American Democracy.