ABSTRACTS – 24th Annual International Conference on Information Technology and Journalism



Attention-Based Politics of Alternative Facts: One-Minute of Fear

Norbert Merkovity, University of Szeged, Hungary

Péter Bence Stumpf, University of Szeged, Hungary


Attention-based politics describes the process in which politicians use their communication to draw the attention of the biggest possible crowd of the audience (voters) to themselves or to the themes they propose in the multitude of information or news flows (Merkovity 2017; 2018). What do we know about this “attention”? First of all, attention is the opposite of the confused, dazed, scatter-brained or agitated state (James, 1891, p. 403–404). The phenomenon encompasses consciousness, but what is in the centre of attention can be influenced. The reasons for this are: attention is not always and without exception the gatekeeper of perception and knowledge (Mack & Clarke, 2012, p. 303), sometimes people process information automatically (Cherry, 1953). Furthermore, attention is limited, we can pay attention only to a very small number of things at the same time (see Simons & Rensink, 2005), and unconscious or unintentional processes are at play in the meantime, which also affects the visual form of attention (Lamme, 2003). Attention-based politics refers to politicians who recognised that the operation of party- and political system, and the media is unable to keep pace with the explosion in communication, which occurred in the last decades. In attention based politics, the emphasis will be on the use of media, mainly social media. Online communication will become important, this is where different events of social life take place, and voters also take an active part in this communication. However, active participation of politicians does not entail interactivity, as the majority of political actors will avoid situations where they engage directly with voters, for example through dialogue (e.g.: Aharony, 2012; Merkovity, 2016). Thus attention-based politics is not linked to interactivity. What about traditional media?

Television screen time during mega-events like the FIFA Football World Cup is probably one of the most valuable ad-spaces due to extremely high viewership. This opportunity did not go unnoticed by political parties, as evidenced by the broadcast of the 2016 Olympic Games in the Hungarian public media, when the government’s narrative on the refugee crisis was injected into the broadcast in every possible instance. This paper explores this phenomenon on the example of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The games were only broadcasted by the public media stations M4 and Duna TV and during each half-time break a one-minute long news block was shown. The transcripts of the newsreels are coded and analysed. The main purpose of these types of examinations is to identify whether the World Cup was used to convey political messages and if yes, then to what extent. This aspect of research will help to determine how frequently the one-minute newsreels were used to disseminate fake news and/or Russian disinformation propaganda in Hungary. Certain topics related to migration, George Soros and the inability of the European Union to manage the situation were obviously consistent with the Kremlin’s narrative.


Little room for echo chambers: Egocentric publics and political opinion

formation amongst Facebook users

Bela Janky, Budapest University

Kmetty Zoltan, Eotvos Lorand University

Gabriela Szabó, Centre for Social Sciences


Personal selectivity in seeking political information has always been present in the history of modern democracies (Bryant – Davies, 2008; Sullivan, 2009; Sweeny et al., 2010; Stavrositu, 2014). It is however safe to say that the current info-communication landscape expands the opportunities for voters to navigate news themselves (Prior, 2007; Davis – Dunaway, 2016; Van Aelst et al., 2017). The term of egocentric- publics is coined by Hernando Rojas and his colleagues to describe the emerging patterns of cumulative publicly available interactions amongst individuals in social networking sites (Wojcieszak – Rojas, 2011; Rojas – Macafee, 2013; Rojas, et al. 2015). One of the most pessimistic account of those developments is centered around the concept of echo chambers (Sunstein, 2009; Jamieson – Cappella, 2008). Nonetheless, it is rather challenging to provide conclusive evidence for the existence and the profound impact of echo chambers. One important reason for this is that most of the empirical studies on echo chamber have been focused on a limited number of social media platforms. Singleplatform studies are problematic because political information and news is rarely sought from a single platform in a high-choice media environment. In this paper, we investigate the development of echo chambers and the interrelationship between political attitudes and the personalised communication environments – including news media consumption, social media use and peer-to-peer communication as well – in Hungary. (The fieldwork was conducted between December 2017 and January 2018 on a sample of 875 Facebook users aged 18-65.) We carry out cluster analysis to characterize the different patterns of news exposure, and investigate how those patterns correspond to social media use on one hand, and the political opinion formation on the other. Our results show that there are political bubbles, but only a minority of Hungarian Facebook users are closed in an echo chamber. Moreover, social media use does not seem to be a major driving force behind the development of echo chambers. Most voters gain political information from politically divergent sources on social media and do not avoid contradictory viewpoints there. However, in line with our expectatios, patterns of media use are strongly linked to attitudes toward contested political issues. To sum up, our results temper fears of the development of large, social media based echo chambers but still point to the potential role of high choice media environment in mass polarization.


Deepfake, the next phase of misinformation and the new

virus for today’s journalism

Dren Gerguri, University of Prishtina

Deepfake is the new version of Fake News. Deepfake is a person’s audio and video, manipulated to look and sound like a real person, saying something that he never said. If there has been much discussion about the fake news, the focus is on deepfake, as the next phase of misinformation. Fake News 2.0, or Deepfake, is a technology based on artificial intelligence used to produce or change video content in order to present something that actually did not happen. Various programs can combine or overlap fake images and videos over existing images or videos. This paper is focused on the distribution of deepfake news in USA, but also some European countries as well. Main hypotheses of the paper is: Frequent use of the internet for information increases the probability of impact from deepfake news. This claim will be tested by measuring the use of the online media by the respondents as a source of information. To respond to the research question and to test hypotheses will be used purposive sampling method to collect some news which are not real. Deepfake is a very dangerous virus for journalism. While people can not believe what they see and what they hear, it is easy for any political leader to deny any reporting he dislikes as a fabrication. In the United States, mainstream media have already begun training journalists on how to detect deepfakes. Training journalists are very important, but the mission is not fulfilled even if the audience is not educated about such a phenomenon. Such trends make it more important than ever before, media literacy. The facts will continue to lose their power as the videos made and the pictures become more sophisticated, casting doubt on the primary material. False speeches by politicians or anyone else will continue to be distributed on social networks and the society will continue to be the victim of these video tricks because the imitation of various figures with advanced computer programs is hardly noticeable.


Polarizing the public? Twitter usage of populist parties in Spain

Óscar G. Luengo, Universidad de Granada, Spain

Belén Fernández-García, Universidad de Granada, Spain


The emergence of populist parties has been a constant of the European political life, specifically in the last decade. Beyond other features, we have observed that those parties present a clear and intense presence in social media, as a consequence of its opportunities and potential for political actors in general, but populist actors in particular. Previous research state populist actors use the Internet to circumvent the established media (Engesser, Ernst, Esser & Büchel, 2016; Groshek & Engelbert, 2013). Populist actors also use social networks to spread their populist ideology in a fragmented and unmediated way (Engesser et al, 2016).

The goal of this paper is the analysis of the political communication of the main Spanish populist parties and leaders in Twitter. We want to profile the usage of this social media by the mentioned actors at the beginning of this year, given the recent increasing importance of Vox (a right-wing populist party with an unexpected success). We will content analyze a sample of tweets posted by Podemos and Vox during the first months of 2019, a pre-campaign period when we found a very active communicative political dynamic. We will pay attention to the type of messages posted, the capacity to be retweeted, the main topics, the objective of them, the polarization and the presence of negativism and conflict. Finally, and considering the populist promise to restore popular sovereignty, this paper will examine whether populist parties use the potential of social networks to interact with the public in a participatory way or not.


Right-Wing Information Networks, Populist Parties, and the Spill-over of Deviant Issues in Hybrid Media Environments

Curd B. Knüpfer, Freie Universität Berlin


This paper presents a three-step, conceptual model of diffusion processes, by which political information circulates within hybrid media environments. It addresses the question of how specific issues or particular frames might spill over from a realm of deviant discourse into the focus of more mainstream actors and publics. Three conceptually distinct steps are outlined: 1. Right-wing online networks, consisting of individual social media users as well as partisan media outlets, engage in collective framing efforts (Knüpfer 2018), wherein they draw on sets of information derived from spheres of discourse typically ignored by mainstream media and larger audiences; 2. Strategic political consideration causes political parties or individual elites to selectively amplify these framing processes and the issues they address; 3. Mainstream media outlets amplify this messaging and lend a different framing to it, by which it spills-over (Mathes & Pfetsch 1991) from the peripheries of public discourse into more mainstream modes of deliberation. The model is applied to two empirical case studies drawn from different media environments. The first focuses on US politics and the role played by mainstream media’s coverage of the Trump administration in amplifying messages emanating from right-wing networks. These findings rest on established observations about the central role of Trump’s Twitter feed in heaving issues onto the news agenda as well as the apparent feedback loop between the Trump administration and the partisan media outlet Fox News (Gertz 2018). The case study adds to these observations, by tracing the origins of such information-based interaction even farther back, into a loosely networked set of right-wing news sites and social media amplifiers. The second example outlines interaction between the German far-right party AfD and their peripheral information networks. Here, the focus lies on how the party adopted a specific framing of the “UN Compact in Migration” after these frames were established and circulated within their peripheral networks. The data show how German mainstream media sources picked up the issue after the AfD and other right-wing politicians took cues from these peripheral networks and elevated it onto their political agenda. For both cases the paper thereby traces spill-over effects form fairly obscure or deviant starting points into the focus of mainstream media and larger publics. Digitally enabled dynamics emerge between a novel form of mezzo-level consisting of partisan media outlets and loose amplification networks on the one hand, and positions of institutional power occupied by populist parties or political elites on the other. The presented case studies draw on data derived from quantitative text-based content analysis (via the Media Cloud database) as well as network analysis of interaction via the social media platforms Twitter (for the US case) and Facebook (for the German case). While Media Cloud data helps trace the diffusion of particular issues across various media sources and news ecologies, data collected from social media accounts helps to demonstrate more immediate modes of interaction between populist parties and their amplification networks.


The Utilization of Social Media and Filter Bubbles to support the Populists Candidates in the 2016 US Election

Ahmad Kilani, RUDN University, Russia


It’s becoming clearer that the development of information and communication technology like social interacting has decreased the price and time of making and broadcasting of information, which likewise includes political material. Progressively, individuals collect political data and involve in political deliberations over social media. Through additional preferences, citizens can select to devour only information that consensuses with their views. It’s a worthy argument to be measured intensely since it has extensively been considered that operational democracies deeply rely on electorates who are exposed to and comprehend numerous political understandings.  The 2016 US presidential election stimulated the intellectuals’ profounder anxieties about the influence of the filter bubble on democracy. Populist political candidates from the republicans and democrats, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, altered the tone and course of the 2016 presidential election in America. As Trump’s victory, the concept that social media assisted him to win has been invigorated, even by Trump himself. In some of his speeches, Donald Trump declares Facebook and Twitter as tools that aided him to win. Hence, this study examines individuals’ support for populist candidates through the ideological gamut in the US to precisely scrutinize if utilizing social media was connected to an augmented possibility of supporting populist presidential political candidates. There is contending patterns of passive, active, uncivil social, and active media were taken into consideration and the conclusions propose that active social media utilization for politics was essentially connected to fewer support for the Republican populists, Trump; nonetheless both passive and/or uncivil social media utilization were connected to an upsurge in the probability of support to a level approximately corresponding to that of the customary television watching. These forms are almost the inverse of support for the Democratic populist, Bernie Sanders.


State-Sponsored Bubbles? The Framing of Conflicts by Russia Today, HispanTV and Traditional Media in Spain.

Javier García-Marín, University of Granada

José Manuel Moreno Mercado, University of Granada


In recent years, scholars are increasingly concerned by the attempts of manipulation associated with false information in mass media and the Internet. In fact, a new terminology has become popular, like the rising use of the term “fake news”. These attempts of manipulation have been associated with sate actors who might want to intervene in different political systems, including Russia and Iran. The researchers propose to compare the coverage of traditional media with those non-democratic State-sponsored media. In particular, Russia Today (RT, Russia) and HispanTV (Iran), in their editions in Spanish; and El Pais and El Mundo (both Spanish). The methodological approach will be framing theory and the cases to analyze the conflicts in Ukraine and Yemen. In both cases, Iran and Russia maintain strong strategic positions. The scientific literature has shown how mass media use generic frames to cover conflicts, such as the “human drama” or “attribution of responsibility” frames. However, almost all research refers to media in democratic systems. Our hypothesis is that the use of frames by the non-democratic state-sponsored media will be different depending on the geopolitical interest. Thus, palpable differences should be observed in the coverage of traditional (democratic) media (El País and El Mundo) with respect to that of RT and HispanTV. To demonstrate the hypothesis, the authors have used an automated analysis of frames based on classification algorithms (Natural Language Processing) showing, in addition, the potential of this method to analyze large data sets.


Locked in the filter bubble?  Perceptions of exposure to political content on facebook during election campaigns

Azi Lev-On, Nili Steinfeld, Ariel University


Numerous studies have examined the extent and character of exposure to political contents in social media arenas, and its potential impact on attitude formation and electoral outcomes, yet very few studies have analyzed users’ perceptions of the political leaning of contents they are expose to on social media, and their correlation with users’ political positions. The current research examines Facebook users’ perceptions of the content they were exposed to on Facebook during the 2015 parliamentary electoral campaigns in Israel. Findings demonstrate that participants who self-identified as left–wing voters perceive Facebook contents as having a slight right-wing orientation, while participants who self-identified as right-winged voters judge Facebook contents as being slightly left wing.

Theoretical Background

Arguably, the Internet facilitates (intentional and unintentional) exposure to and interaction with people of different beliefs, views and lifestyles, from different regions, countries and backgrounds, at dramatically reduced costs. Consequently, some view the Internet as a platform for developing a new type of public discourse that is simultaneously more participatory and deliberative.

Empirical research, however, challenges the Internet’s role as an arena of interaction and exposure to conflicting views. Many studies find that individuals tend to be exposed selectively to like-minded individuals, and do not actively seek discussions that include views opposing their own (Garrett, 2009; Sunstein, 2001). When given the choice, people largely prefer to interact with and receive information from people who hold similar views. While homophily also occurs offline, the ability to identify like-minded people and filter out opposing views online is much more refined, potentially resulting in enclaves of like-minded people, even within environments characterized by multiple and competing perspectives.

In 2014, the research department of Facebook conducted a large-scale study to explore these arguments (Bakshy, Messing & Adamic,2015(, based on a content analysis of 10 million Facebook users whose profiles include information on their political orientation. Findings indicate that, contrary to claims, approximately 20% of the contents to which users are exposed differ from their own views, and approximately 20%-25% of users’ friends hold political views that differ from their own. In light of such findings, the current research examines perceptions of exposure to policail content questions using a large-scale survey, conducted after the parliamentary elections in Israel in 2015.


The Israeli parliamentary elections in Israel were held In March 2015. A survey of a representative sample of the population (n = 500) was conducted in April. The interval between the elections and the survey enabled participants to process the information, thoughts and feelings that they experienced during the campaign, and provided a more complete picture of voter’s opinions.


We hypothesized that the political orientation of Facebook contents to which participants are exposed will be correlated with participants’ own political orientations. Surprisingly, left-wing participants perceived Facebook contents as having a slight right-wing orientation, while right-wing participants perceived Facebook contents as having a slight life-winged orientation. Analysis of variance indicated that the mean political evaluations of Facebook contents differed significantly (M = 3.17, SD = 0.97 and M = 2.85, SD = 0.89( for the right-wing and left-wing groups, respectively (F(2, 403) = 4.43, p < 0.05).

Research contribution

The findings provide an additional angel for analyzing whether social media platforms function, and are perceived as, filter bubbles, “locking” users in chambers that to a large extent echo their prior positions. Findings from the upcoming 2019 parliamentary elections in Israel will demonstrate whether insights gained from the current data still hold four years later.


Comparative Analyses of US Media Hegemony

The variables of hegemonic media in Hollywood

Nabhan Durgham, RUDN University, Russia

This paper will review and analyze the book “Comparative Analyses of Media Hegemony” to better understand and analyze how the American hegemony is embedded in the media, and cartelized by the interests of the elites. A palpable pattern can be perceived with the ideology of U.S propaganda beginning with the anti-communism sentiments, American heroism, exceptionalism, and ending with spreading democracy globally. It can be noticeable that most of the hegemonic media in the U.S follow the same ideology by which justifying U.S wars, promoting fear of invasion and the American benevolence; whereas the non-hegemonic media take a different approach in showing the malevolence side of wars, and the effect of such violence on local populations and even on soldiers. This review constructs a firm examination of the contrasts between a hegemonic media and a non-hegemonic media in USA through analyzing numerous variables that can outline and define how U.S media hegemony functions, and how it is affected.


Is YouTube going to be a “new Facebook”?

Jelena Surčulija Milojević, University of Belgrade


Nowadays, there is a “mobile first” trend for children. However, there is no control over the content the children have access to in an online environment. YouTube created YouTube Kids and offered it to parents in February 2015, only in the US, with the idea to have the “safe harbour” for children in the online environment. Very soon, there were many complaints regarding the commercials and inappropriate videos offered to children. After James Bridle’s blog, in which he called YouTube and Google responsible for exposing children to violent and extreme content on their platforms, the big advertisers, such as Adidas, Mars and Lidl, decided to withdraw their commercials. That has shaken YouTube seriously and it deleted more than 150.000 videos in one week. Since then, contrary to Facebook, whose policy was an issue of serious examination, almost nothing has been done on children’s’ protection when accessing YouTube content. If YouTube is consider as „to some degree a lawmaker“, the question will be what can countries and/or international organizations do to regulate “quasi-lawmakers”? Is the Germany’s Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) that came into effect on 1 January 2018, a possible role model for other countries to follow? 

Methodology and relevant information on data collection and analysis:

The relevant literature will be reviewed, together with key primary and secondary legal sources (European Law and International Law). The research methodology will be interdisciplinary. There will be the critical approach to current solutions towards the regulation of the YouTube content.

Key findings or questions that analysis will address in an ongoing or future research:

Very few voices ask a question whether there should be a regulatory authority in charge of rating children’s content on the new, global, level. This paper will address the possibilities for introduction of policy and/or regulatory authority that would oblige the YouTube and other providers to rate children’s content and to monitor whether they offer “safe harbours” for children to watch the appropriate for their age content.


Millennials and online political participation: EU elections in Croatia

Marija Volarević, University of Ljubljana 


Accompanying the new media and new communication platforms is an ongoing debate about their effects and the persuasion model of these new communication tools. In recent years, researchers and theorists have defined new models and practices relating to the role of social media communication in political participation and mobilizing voters. The mobilization thesis argues that access to digital technologies has the capacity to draw new participants into civic life (Stanely, 2004), particularly among young citizens (Hirzalla, Van Zoonen, de Ridder, 2010). Using content analysis of Instagram hashtag campaign #ovajputglasam (this time I vote) and relying on the optimistic idea that social media can improve political participation this research analyze how willing are young people, millennials, to engage in political communication on social media. Since the political participation among millennials is very low, especially on EU elections, the goal of this paper is to detect the role of UCC (user-created-conent) in users participation in political campaign for European Parliament elections in Croatia.


Political myths in contemporary mass media

Maria Ivanova, RUDN University, Russia


Today, mass media are increasingly becoming a medium for broadcasting political myths. In this regard, there is a need to reassess the nature of political myths, as well as those mythological symbols and images that are most effectively used in political advertising and propaganda.

Political myths in the most vivid form demonstrate how through the appeal not to logic, but to feelings and emotional sphere it is possible to create not only certain political institutions, phenomena of political culture, but also political regimes and ideologies. Political myth, as well as any other myth, creates psychological images (better to say, preferred models) and on their basis translates the perception of what can be designated as “I”, “we”, “native”, and what opposes this as “alien”, “enemy”, etc. In a number of recent publications of electronic media, these ideas are the basis for the description of information wars. Also, we can talk about the relevance and popularity in the media of political myths such as the myth of conspiracy, the myth of the Golden age, the myth of the Savior, the myth of unity, the myth of neutrality, etc. If we talk about the Russian media, the political myths are often associated with the concepts of power, freedom, true law, truth, conscience, etc.

Mythology is also reflected in the images of power.  In particular, this topic is discussed in detail in the works of J. Blondel, M. Bernes, S. Hook, R. Tucker, E. Fidler, R. Stogdill, M. Hermann, G. Lasswell, J. Schneider, D. Adara, H. Heckhausen, C.G. Jung, C. Moscovici, and others. The author conducted an empirical research of political leadership perception in Russia. It was revealed that the Russian mass-media are exploiting the myth of the “solar hero”, which is deeply embedded in Russian culture and positively perceived in society.

Political myth establishes the simplest cause-and-effect relations for the phenomena of the social world. However, the power of myths does not exactly explain the phenomena, and that they primarily justify a certain course of events or actions. Thus, the myth creates an artificial system of values and ideals designed to control the masses. This provides support to many political systems and leaders, and the media become an effective tool for broadcasting these images to the masses. The main danger of political myth is that a person, who has accepted a political myth, begins to see and interpret reality through it. This choice determines the selectivity of perception of the facts, their psychological ranking: a person loses the ability of realistic thinking and facts that do not fit into his ideas, he either simply ignores or does not believe in them or distorts them for the sake of his preferences.

In General, social myth-making in the media has many faces. Today, political myth is becoming one of the most powerful modern mechanisms of manipulation for the mass media in order to subordinate mass consciousness.



The selective perception of news diversity

An explorative study from a cognitive perspective

Pascal Verhoest, University of Brussels

Arno Slaets, University of Brussels

Leen d’Haenens, University of Leuven


Research on selective exposure shows that media users tend to select information that coincides with their existing values and viewpoints. Drawing on social and cognitive psychology, a second level of analysis may be added to this, which is that of selective perception. The principle of selective perception entails that people are better able to correctly decode and assimilate value-consistent information than value-inconsistent information. According to schemata theory, this is explained by the high ‘resonance’ of such messages with the cognitive schemes stored in the receiver’s mind.

Drawing upon schemata theory, a method of ‘resonance analysis’ was developed to investigate how the interpretation schemes of receivers interact with representation schemes contained in news photographs. The experiment conducted demonstrates that, as a perceptual issue, content diversity is not so much dependent on the variety of information inputs, but on the interaction between the ‘representation frames’ encoded in the media message and the ‘interpretation frames’ stored in peoples’ minds. 

To put this method into practice, a photo elicitation test was set-up. Three different, ethnically framed press photographs were shown to a sample of 60 randomly chosen respondents per photograph (n=180). A cluster analysis of these perceptions revealed that people interpret the same photographs in different ways according to their attitudes. The analysis of these clusters suggests that the interaction between strongly framed representations and strongly articulated interpretation frames are conducive of a loss of interpretative diversity at the level of perception.


The models of competition of national “soft power” strategies:

Toward universalization or polarization?

Vladimir Ivanov, RUDN University, Russia


Today we can witness actualization of two opposite tendencies of information policies and strategies of soft power of political actors. The first trend is the formation of information bubbles, further segmentation and clustering of information spaces, ideological and value content of “soft power” of different countries. The opposite trend is further convergence of content, value content and soft power strategies of different countries competing for influence in the world.

The main goal of the article is to evaluate these trends and develop a heuristic model of segmentation of national strategies of soft power based on the models of game theory and collective action theory, in particular, the Hotelling-Downs spatial competition rule.

The drift of states foreign policy competition in the direction of unification of soft power content and technologies observed in the 2000s was due to globalization processes, the formation of a single planetary information space, and could also be explained by the natural copying of the actions of the leading countries by their competitors. Thus, the question arises: is it possible in the future, when different countries will broadcast outside a standard universal set of values and strive to look attractive and credible based on common universally recognized standards, referring to the “median” (i.e., “modern”) individual or society? And what strategy of soft power is thus more justified: to compete with today’s leaders on their field or to offer something of their own, sometimes radically different and even the opposite?

Contrary the task of further segmenting and targeting external soft-power influence of political actors is becoming more urgent considering civilizational diversity of the world in the conditions of increasing international competition.

The principles and rules of spatial competition of H. Hotelling and E. Downs have been applied for typology of national strategies of soft power to evaluate their effectiveness and segmentation of potential audience for maximum impact. It was concluded that, due to the polymodality and civilizational diversity of the world, universalist soft-power projects today can only have limited success, with significant costs and reputational losses, while attracting value-close countries and pushing away the others. This division provides the basis for the clustering of information bubbles not only by interests but also by values.

In the recent period, the crisis of universal soft power strategies has clearly emerged. In this regard, the segmentation of soft power strategies and virtualization of soft power, drift towards strategical communication, propaganda and targeted impact on certain groups of the population. This leads to the crisis of the concept of soft power. The “targeted” appeal to the narrower segments of recipients (population of individual countries (or groups of countries), ethnic groups and, in particular, to the minorities of other societies) may represent a more effective strategy for political actors in terms of the implementation of their foreign policy interests.


You Don’t Need to Shout. The Public Sphere is Deaf

Domagoj Bebić, University of Zagreb


New media changed the way the citizens inform themselves, discuss and communicate in public sphere. Structural transformation of the public sphere came with the emergence of mass consumerism and commodification of the culture stimulated with mass media. Transformation of the public sphere has intensified with the rise of digital media and personalization of content. Algorithmic ‘isolation’ of like-minded people led to the emergence of ‘filter-bubbles’ and consequently, polarization of the public. Such development is believed to undermine the very logic and nature of the public sphere. Consequently, the public sphere dies in pain. However, this paper argues that this is not the likely outcome.


Bursting Bubbles in the Public Square: Culture, Politics, and Public Knowledge in a Digital Age

Jill L. Tao, Incheon National University

Antonio Tavares, University of Minho

Patricia Silva, University of Aveiro

Maria Lameiras, University of Vigo


Max Weber argued that as society advanced, the public and private “spheres” would become increasingly separate, with the distance between the roles played by individuals in each sphere growing with time. But the advent of social networking platforms and systems (or SNS) and egovernment movements seem to prove him wrong. In a linked world, the lines between what constitutes public and private          knowledge are not simply blurred; they often cease to exist. Such blurring poses unique challenges to our understanding of legitimacy and authority.

Recent research on the use of SNS by governments and their representatives has largely focused on the potential benefits of such usage: “open and accountable governments, participatory policies and decisionmaking processes, collaborative actors and institutions” (Lameiras, Silva and Tavares 2018: 1), where the ideal government using such tools would be democratic, and the tools would serve as a means to increase efficiency, improve transparency, and lower costs of service delivery (Mergel 2012). But underlying assumptions about why we expect such results are premised on older ideas linking citizen participation and increased trust in public institutions (Yang & Holzer 2006).  Rosanvallon, for example, considered trust an “invisible institution” (2008: 48-49), and one that is considered important for democracy and good governance (Hetherington 1998; Marien and Hooghe 2011). However, as Rosanvallon argues, the link between trust and the legitimacy of public institutions is often assumed, rather than examined. This problem is highlighted in discussions surrounding the decline in voter turnout in most of the established democracies over the last decades (Hooghe & Kern, 2017, Caren 2007). Scholars raise concerns over the overall legitimacy and stability of the democratic regimes where voter turnout continues to drop, especially in the so-called ‘second-order’ elections, a term coined for municipal elections (Marien, Dassonneville, & Hooghe, 2015). Extant research on SNS has, by and large, demonstrated that social media can increase accessibility, transparency (Mossberger, Wu, & Crawford 2013, Grimmelikhuijsen et al. 2013, Grimmelikhuijsen and Meijer 2014), public scrutiny, participation and accountability (Grimmelikhuijsen & Feeney, 2016; Piotrowski & Van Ryzin, 2007), while fostering trust in public institutions (Warren, Sulaiman, & Jaafar, 2014). Social media has the potential to make things global, to scale-up events, and reach a tremendous variety of audiences, contributing to local governance mediatisation (Djerf-Pierre & Pierre, 2016). However, an understanding of how such mechanisms apply to local public officials is lacking.

This paper draws on an innovative experimental research design. By randomly assigning a sample of the adult population to different treatments, we identify the causal effects of exposure to different types of communicative strategies on citizens’ trust in local government. The experiment uses a 3x3x3 full factorial design, in which each respondent is exposed to a treatment composed of different means of political communication across three local policy areas (environment, transportation, education and culture). The results can help us build a better understanding of how the public square intersects with the expectations constructed by SNS, and whether that constitutes a help or a hindrance to the legitimacy of democratic institutions.


Fairytale about the online public sphere: Analysis of Facebook user’s comments on Barack Obama’s Facebook fan page

Milica Vučković, University of Zagreb


Relying on the idea that internet may increase citizens’ political
engagement, by bringing politics closer to citizens (e.g. De Vreese, 2007; Tolbert and
McNeal, 2003), in this study I wanted to examine to which extent citizens are willing to
engage on the Facebook fan page of Barack Obama and to what extent may their engagement be explained with the presence of private cues in the posts. Further, relying on the literature about the public sphere (Garnham, 1996; Habermas,
1989, 1992; Thompson 1995;), with the focus on social media and privatization of
public sphere (Loader and Mercea, 2011; Papacharissi, 2009, 2010) I wanted to test if Facebook can serve as a communication space for rational and meaningful discussion.

To answer these questions, I have analyzed 2804 posts from Barack Obama’s Facebook fan page. I examined content of the posts and number of interactions (likes, comments and shares) that each post gained. Further, to examine citizens’ comments on the fan page of Barack Obama I did content analysis of 1600 comments and sentiment analysis of 27500 comments.

The results revealed: Firstly, that posts which contained elements from private life of Barack Obama generated the highest number of interactions. Secondly, sentiment analysis conducted in NVivo 12 showed that comments are mostly neutral and positive. Thirdly, results from the content analysis discovered lack of any kind of constructive discussion among citizens (Facebook users).


Fake News: Emerging New Discipline in Communication Science

Nenad Prelog, Croatian Ambassador to South Africa


Foundation of new (scientific) discipline is a slow and demanding process. It has to be explain from different aspects and proofed with many arguments; from production of articles and organization of conferences to the number of scientists and researchers who work in this field and existence of courses on the undergraduate and graduate level. New discipline has to have a suitable definition, eventual classification, history, planned institutions (from institutes to museums etc.), methodology in the development phase, and many other criteria  required in such process which is demanding and requires at least particular consensus in academic community. It has to establish (and limit) relationship with other (mostly academic) disciplines e.g. media law, media studies, psychology, economy, statistics, sociology, political science, information technology and many others. Educational institutions, which develop courses, have to think further than preparing syllabuses: it might be necessary to assure students that it should be possible to write theses and (maybe) find a job in this new field. Finally, society (and industry) on different levels have to accept fake news research as important for the future of democracy and media freedom.


Fakenews, selective exposure and traditional news media: following news about the best whiskey

Mato Brautović, Romana John, Sandra Buratović, University of Dubrovnik


Most people still believe that the traditional news media are the most credible sources of information. This conservative view can be explained with in the critical mission of the traditional news media to avoid poor-quality journalism in form of spreading disinformation and to accept professional standards and ethics.

This study examines how traditional news media produce and disseminate fake news as result of poor-quality journalism. The methodology combines mix of digital methods, content analysis and ethnography. The study examines the fake news about 2019 World Whiskies Awards when Lidl’s cheap whiskey Queen Margot Blend Scotch Whisky which was mistakenly rated “the best in the world”. British Independent was first to break the fake news which was later conveyed by more than 100 traditional and online media.

Findings shows that standard error correction routines are not enough because fake news continues to live through traditional and online media that have taken over initial misleading information. Furthermore, the study shows evidence that people are more likely to choose to consume (news) content that is aligned with their interests and are largely unwilling to accept information that reveals that original news was a fake news.


New Information Platforms in Economic and Public Diplomacy: a Comparative Analysis of the Digital Diplomacy of Kosovo, Croatia and Israel

Ana Radovic Kapor, Libertas International University, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Iva Adzic Kust, Libertas International University, Dubrovnik, Croatia


Digital technologies have transformed the traditional way of life and have brought new challenges and opportunities to countries and their diplomacy. The 21st century digitalization changes have a much larger impact than any other societal change in the past. These processes actively change the traditional practice of diplomacy, putting the emphasis on accurate and fast information provided not only by ministries of foreign affairs, but other departments and agencies that now play an active role in pursuit of national interests abroad. Creating new information platforms in the digital era allows economic diplomacy to increase the digital competencies of its citizens, to empower them to voice their needs and to prepare them to successfully navigate the future markets. The new Digital Chamber, as an innovation of the Croatian Chamber of Economy is analyzed not only as an efficient way of speeding up the communication between all the parties involved, but more importantly as a platform for on-demand economy and a new business model in economic diplomacy. In comparison, platforms Digital Kosovo and Israeli hasbara are analyzed as two forms of public diplomacy that mobilize technology in order to disperse the positive information and images of these countries.


The role of new technologies in the fight against fake news – the experiences and challenges of Croatian media organizations

Tanja Grmuša, Poslovno veleučilište Zagreb

Lordan Prelog, Veleučilište „Baltazar ”Zaprešić”


The development of information-communications technologies alleviated access capability of information and also influenced the process of creating the media content. The media organizations compete in order to gather more and more consumers and to achieve the leading role in the media market where the criteria for success becomes the number of clicks and sharing of content on the social networks. Interaction and multimedia have become the most relevant determinant of the media content which requires an adjustment in management of classic types of media structures (newspapers, radio, television) as well as in organizational issues. Media convergence tries to ensure the usage of new information on all available communication channals the organization owns, but the precogniton of that kind of work is the integrated editorial board. Such approach requires closer cooperation of sometimes separated divisions of media, technologies and staff, who must be educated and qualified for work in the digital age. That is a big challenge for professional media standards, because of the speed necessity of delivering information, as well as of the changed way of communication from the source to the media. On the other hand, change is visible in the amended role of audience, who no longer want and, moreover, no longer are just a passive communicator, but rather an active participant and the creator in the mass communication process. The audience nowadays seeks continuous authentication of channels of communication and communicator’s ethics with the goal of preserving the trustworthyness of media. The new technologies have changed the relations between the editors and the journalists towards the audience in the context of anticipating their interests and expectations, and that reflects on the editorial policies. This work will try to answer the following questions: which are the major changes in the production of the media content; how national media organizations cope with the realization of organizational and technological presumptions of intergated editorial board; how journalists percieve the need for life-long education and for improvement of their work using information-communications technologies; what type of formal/informal education is provided for journalists by their companies, if any, and what is the role of new technologies in the fight against fake news. We were also interested in the way that information-communications technologies affect the professional media standards. The answers to the questions asked in our qualitative survey we tried to acquire by the method structured interview on a sample of twenty journalists, divided into four groups, depending on the relevant media (TV, newspapers, radio, online media websites).


Identity and mentaliy in online communication

Inoslav Bešker, Split University


Social identity in intergroup relations is projected to online communication too. This identity is most easily recognizable through the collective mentality that emanates.

Collective identities, collocated in intergroup relations, through the history have been verified most often within a territory, among interest, class, cultural, or ethnic or confessional groups. Intergroup conflicts flamed, more commonly, at the demarcations or frontiers of neighbouring territories, on joint waters, briefly: in social friction areas.

The means of mass communication elastically expanded the concept of territory, penetrating propaganda into the neighborhood. The Internet exponentially expanded and accelerated the reach of communication. Including more than a half of humanity, it has transformed the whole world into a common information aquatorium.

We are witnessing a new phenomenon: collective mentalities, and especially fanatic “cheering” mentality as their primitive subspecies, are formed and grouped independently of geophysical territory, and often non aligned to national and/or cultural affiliation. It is facilitated by the use of English as a global lingua franca (and Chinese as the first secondary). Abuse of hate against out-groups serves as an effective amalgam.