Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media <p>The journal publishes quantitative descriptive social science. It does not publish research that makes causal claims. The journal focuses on evidence that speaks to some substantive question or trend about digital communication processes and media. Articles can use a variety of data types and methods.</p> University of Zurich en-US Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media 2673-8813 Who speaks and who is heard on Facebook? Political mobilization and engagement patterns of partisanship and gender in Switzerland’s direct democracy <p>This descriptive study investigates political mobilization and user engagement patterns on Facebook and associated partisan and gender discrepancies. It focuses on Switzerland, where political actors frequently seek to mobilize and shape citizens’ opinions before direct-democratic voting on wide-ranging policy issues. Using digital trace data from CrowdTangle, the analysis focuses on the posting frequency and received user interactions of 770 Swiss political actors’ Facebook pages. The analysis period covers 20 months, from November 2019 to July 2021, during which five popular votes occurred, and the sampled FB pages published more than 226,000 posts and received more than 18,000,000 user interactions. A descriptive quantitative analysis and a multiple regression analysis revealed an overall skewed pattern: Mobilization and user engagement are driven by small subsets of highly active and interacted-with FB pages. A few FB pages of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and male politicians receive highly disproportionate user engagement – relative to more centrist parties and female politicians – but also relative to their electoral share in the national parliament. The results show that only a few dominant political voices are widely heard on Facebook, even if many speak. These insights are of interest beyond Switzerland, as Facebook and other social media platforms shape political discourse across liberal democracies.</p> Julian Maitra Regula Hänggli Copyright (c) 2023 Julian Maitra, Regula Hänggli Fricker 2023-05-02 2023-05-02 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.008 Tweeting Public Service Complaints <p align="justify">Many local governments have added new methods to report public service complaints like submitting a complaint on Twitter, hoping to expand access to more constituents. But who submits Twitter complaints, and how do those complaints compare to those submitted using other methods? I collect data on complaints submitted to the City of St. Louis and use these data to show that complaints submitted on Twitter are primarily from wealthy white residents concerned about issues related to parks or to their commutes. These types of complaints differ sharply from those submitted using other methods. Hence this descriptive evidence lends credence to the idea that providing a Twitter account to submit complaints may not expand access to local government services as much as previously thought. Local governments may want to carefully consider how the methods that they provide to submit public service complaints could help to determine the types of complaints they are likely to receive.</p> William O'Brochta Copyright (c) 2023 William O'Brochta 2023-05-10 2023-05-10 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.011 “CNN Can Kiss My As$” <p>News consumption in the United States is polarized and fragmented, with an abundance of partisan news publications appealing to political identities on both the left and the right. Yet, there is an abundance of hyperpartisan news on the right, the content of which has been shown to be harmful to democracy. This study captures one of the most comprehensive pictures to date of the U.S. Americans who consume far-right media and makes connections between such media use and the state of American democracy. After a lengthy data-cleaning process, we analyzed open-ended survey responses from a nationally representative sample of more than 10,000 U.S. American adults, finding that nearly ten percent self-report at least one far-right news outlet as a primary news source. Furthermore, significantly more U.S. Americans report consuming far-right and moderate-right news outlets than counterparts on the left. We then examined the characteristics of this small but significant group, given the current political climate in the United States, finding that far-right news consumers are overwhelmingly white, male, Republican, Christian, and without a college degree. This study reinforces previous findings that patterns in hyperpartisan media usage demonstrate growing extremism in the U.S., and that it is deeply rooted in identity.</p> Andrea Lorenz Carolyn Schmitt Shannon McGregor Daniel Malmer Copyright (c) 2023 Andrea Lorenz, Carolyn Schmitt, Shannon McGregor, Daniel Malmer 2023-09-06 2023-09-06 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.015 Domain-specific influence on Facebook: How topic matters when assessing influential accounts in four countries <p>Against the backdrop of rising concern over misinformation and disinformation, a growing number of studies have considered the important role played by influential social media accounts when particular news stories attract attention online—with special attention given to Facebook, the most widely-used social network for news. However, little is known about what kinds of accounts are among the most influential information curators on Facebook, and where news organizations fit into this broader landscape. In this study, we examine how influence on Facebook plays out across different national contexts and different topics. We draw on a unique dataset from CrowdTangle, sampling over a six-month period in 2021 across four countries (Brazil, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States). We compare what kinds of sources (e.g., news organizations, politicians, or other kinds of influential accounts and groups) are among the most influential accounts in each location when it comes to three specific subjects: COVID-19, political leaders in each country, and climate change—which we also compare to general queries that do not specify a subject domain. Our findings show that the types of influential accounts on Facebook vary considerably by subject domain and country. News media accounts are among the largest share of these influential accounts in each country, but not necessarily the types of news media organizations presumed to be most influential offline.</p> Camila Mont'Alverne Amy Ross Arguedas Sumitra Badrinathan Benjamin Toff Richard Fletcher Rasmus Kleis Nielsen Copyright (c) 2023 Camila Mont'Alverne, Amy Ross Arguedas, Sumitra Badrinathan, Benjamin Toff, Richard Fletcher, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen 2023-08-05 2023-08-05 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.014 The Interplay between Right-Wing Alternative Media, Mainstream Media, and Republican Political Elites in the United States <p><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">Right-wing anti-establishment sentiment has enabled the mainstreaming of al</span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">ternative media outlets across Europe and the United States. Earlier research </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">has quantified the public recognition of these media actors through web traffic </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">rankings, direct social media engagement (e.g., reactions, comments, shares), </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">and topic overlap with establishment counterparts. We demonstrate a comput</span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">ationally scalable approach which (1) sharpens the analytical unit from topic </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">(e.g., “immigration”) to specific news event (e.g., “migrant caravan traveling </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">from Honduras”) and (2) enables the temporal ordering of the same news event </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">appearing among media and politicians.</span> <span dir="ltr" role="presentation">Our method uses a combination of </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">URL matching, word embedding similarity metrics, and network-based event</span><br role="presentation" /><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">detection techniques.</span> <span dir="ltr" role="presentation">We draw two main findings from a dataset of articles </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">from 13 U.S. right-wing media outlets and (re-)tweets by congressional Repub</span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">licans from 2016 to 2020. First, we identify a clear shift in politicians’ media </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">consumption from left- to right-wing outlets.</span> <span dir="ltr" role="presentation">While established-right outlets </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">made the largest gains (30% to 42% of all (re-)tweets), alternative-right outlets </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">also grew from 2% to 5%.</span> <span dir="ltr" role="presentation">Second, we identify increasing content alignment </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">among established- and alternative-right outlets as the URL-to-dyad ratio is </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">almost halved over the time period. Finally, we present a proof-of-concept for </span><span dir="ltr" role="presentation">detecting media outlets’ indirect political alignment.</span></p> Wai Lam Wong Damian Trilling Copyright (c) 2023 Wai Lam Wong, Damian Trilling 2023-02-23 2023-02-23 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.001 What Makes News Sharable on Social Media? <p>With the rise of social media, everyone has the potential to be both a consumer and producer of online content. Although one might assume that people share news because they believe it to be true, worldwide concerns about the spread of misinformation suggest that truthfulness may not be a dominant driver of sharing online. Across three studies (total <em>N</em>=3,492), we investigate what content dimensions are associated with social media sharing intentions for a wide range of news headlines. When we examine the relationships between content dimensions using factor analysis, we consistently find separate factors capturing perceived accuracy and evocativeness. The perceived accuracy factor was positively correlated with both sharing intentions and the headline’s objective veracity. However, while the evocativeness factor was also positively correlated with sharing intentions, it was consistently <em>negatively</em> correlated with the headline’s objective veracity.</p> Xi Chen Gordon Pennycook David Rand Copyright (c) 2023 Xi Chen, Gordon Pennycook, David Rand 2023-04-18 2023-04-18 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.007 Traditional Media, Twitter, and Four Business Scandals <p>We examine how traditional media and Twitter cover four business scandals: Wells Fargo fake accounts, EpiPen pricing hikes, Samsung Note 7 faulty battery, and Volkswagen’s cheating in emission tests. There are over 500 articles from <em>The Wall Street Journal</em>, <em>The New York Times</em>, <em>The Washington Post</em>, and <em>USA Today</em>, and over 400,000 tweets related to these events. We find that traditional media are highly influential. Media organizations, including newspapers, TV networks, and other media outlets, only sent 1% of the scandal-related tweets, but they account for 39% of Twitter users who follow all scandal-related tweets. Newspaper articles rather than individual tweets drew politicians’ attention and preceded additional responses from the troubled firms. The troubled firms also choose TV instead of social media to speak to the public. In contrast, social media appear to play a discovery role. Individual tweets precede newspaper articles but not vice versa. Overall, we conclude that the rise of social media such as Twitter does not diminish the role of traditional media in covering business scandals.</p> John Jiang Michael Shen Copyright (c) 2023 John Jiang, Michael Shen 2023-09-20 2023-09-20 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.016 Mapping Digital Wellness Content <p><span class="fontstyle0">Despite the increasing popularity of wellness on social media, there is<br />little empirical study of its content or audiences. This study provides<br />descriptive information of prevalent themes in wellness content and the<br />composition and views of its audiences. Using structural topic modeling to<br />identify central themes #wellness content on Instagram (N = 544,377<br />posts), we find that while much content appears to promote desired health<br />behaviors (e.g., quality sleep), other topics concern unsubstantiated claims<br />that are often driven by commercial incentives. Nationally representative<br />survey data of U.S. adults (N = 970) further reveals that women, more<br />liberal, and younger people are more likely to seek and see wellness<br />content. Those who actively seek wellness content are both more trusting<br />of science institutions and have less accurate health beliefs compared with<br />those who are inadvertently exposed to wellness content. Though wellness<br />has not received a great deal of scholarly attention, this description sheds<br />light on the relevance of wellness to central questions in communication<br />disciplines concerning expertise, (mis)information, and institutional trust. The popularity of wellness content in social media merits further empirical<br />examination as such content may have important benefits and harms that<br />disproportionately affect women and young people. <br /></span></p> Sedona Chinn Ariel Hasell Dan Hiaeshutter-Rice Copyright (c) 2023 Sedona Chinn, Ariel Hasell , Dan Hiaeshutter-Rice 2023-05-09 2023-05-09 3 1 56 10.51685/jqd.2023.009 Pronoun Lists in Profile Bios Display Increased Prevalence, Systematic Co-Presence with Other Keywords and Network Tie Clustering among US Twitter Users 2015-2022 <p>Over the past few years, pronoun lists have become more prevalent in online spaces. Currently, various LGBT+ activists, universities, and corporations encourage people to share their preferred pronouns. Little research exists examining the characteristics of individuals who do publicly share their preferred pronouns. Using Twitter bios from the US between early 2015 and June 30, 2022, we explored users’ expression of preferred pronouns. First, we noted the prevalence of users with pronoun lists within their bio has increased substantially. Second, we observed that certain linguistic tokens systematically co-occurred with pronoun lists. Specifically, tokens associated with left-wing politics, gender or sexual identity, and social media argot co-occurred disproportionately often alongside pronoun lists, while tokens associated with right-wing politics, religion, sports, and finance co-occurred infrequently. Additionally, we discovered clustering among Twitter users with pronouns in their bios. Specifically, we found an above-average proportion of the followers and friends of Twitter users with pronouns in their bio also had pronouns in their bios. Twitter users who did not share their preferred pronouns, on the other hand, were disproportionately unlikely to be connected with Twitter users who did.</p> Liam Tucker Jason Jones Copyright (c) 2023 Liam Tucker, Jason J. Jones 2023-03-12 2023-03-12 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.003 Let's report our rivals: how Chinese fandoms game content moderation to restrain opposing voices <p>While crowdsourcing approaches in content moderation systems increase the governance capacity of social media, they also offer a loophole for malicious users to massively report and restrict disliked content. To fill the knowledge gap about large-scale, bottom-up attempts at restraining online expressions, we focus on a type of public and institutionalized mass reporting: anti-smear (反黑) campaigns within Chinese online fandom communities, where fans coordinate together and collectively report content they perceive as inappropriate. Based on detailed data of more than two hundred anti-smear groups collected from Weibo and interviews with active participants, our paper examines the motives and dynamics of anti-smear campaigns, the coordination strategies used to game the content moderation system, and the diffusion of anti-smear culture among fandom networks. We argue that anti-smear is essentially a practice of information control and reflects an intolerant mindset of social media users towards dissidents. This paper also points out the vulnerability of community-based content moderation systems to be weaponized in a polarized age, which brings great challenges to platform governance.</p> Andy Zhao Zhaodi Chen Copyright (c) 2023 Andy Zhao, Zhaodi Chen 2023-04-11 2023-04-11 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.006 News sharing as a measure of media alignment <p>In this note we introduce a new approach to measure media alignment derived from the story-sharing behavior of journalists. We use a large corpus of online news stories from two leading Hungarian news sites and estimate alignment scores for a large number of outlets that they cite. To the extent that journalists are more likely to cite ideologically proximate sources, our measure can be used to compare a large number of media outlets on a political — in our case government vs. independent — space. We demonstrate the use of this approach with two empirical applications. First, we show that our alignment scores successfully capture known ideological variation across outlets at a single point in time. Second, we demonstrate that quarterly estimates of alignment for a captured outlet change dramatically following an abrupt change in ownership.</p> Gábor Simonovits Ádám Vig Copyright (c) 2023 Gábor Simonovits, Ádám Vig 2023-05-09 2023-05-09 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.010 Cross-Platform Reactions to the Post-January 6 Deplatforming <p> <span class="fontstyle0">We study changes in social media usage following the ‘Great Deplatforming’ in<br />the aftermath of the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Following the<br />attack, several major platforms banned thousands of accounts, ostensibly to<br />limit misinformation about voter fraud and suppress calls for violence. At the<br />same time, alternative platforms like Gab, BitChute, and Parler welcomed these<br />deplatformed individuals. We identify three key patterns: First, in studying<br />the platforms that emerged among users seeking alternative spaces, we see high<br />frequencies of users bridging these communities announcing their intent to join<br />non-mainstream platforms to their audiences on mainstream platforms. Second, focusing on platforms that were created to be alternative, anti-censorship<br />spaces, deplatforming preceded a sustained increase in engagement with Gab<br />across Twitter, Reddit, and Google search, while Parler saw a steep decline in<br />engagement. Third, examining the language in these spaces, toxic discourse<br />increased briefly on Reddit and Twitter but returned to normal after the deplatforming, while Gab became more toxic. These results suggest that while<br />deplatforming may precede a reduction in targeted discussions within a specific platform, it can incentivize users to seek alternative platforms where these<br />discussions are less regulated and often more extreme.</span><br />As these alternative spaces are often more political and extreme than their mainstream counterparts, deplatforming may drive single-platform improvements at the expense of the larger information ecosystem.</p> Cody Buntain Martin Innes Tamar Mitts Jacob Shapiro Copyright (c) 2023 Jacob Shapiro, Cody Buntain, Martin Innes, Tamar Mitts 2023-03-12 2023-03-12 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.004 Social Media Repertoires: Investigating Multifaceted Social Media Use Among Late Adolescents <p>Social media play a crucial role in adolescents’ everyday lives and impact their well-being, mental health, and risk behavior. Consequently, it is vital to understand the multifaceted social media use of this age group. However, despite the increasing number of platforms affording the curation of communication and audiences, studies to date have predominantly examined single platforms while neglecting sharing behavior and the variety of communication partners. In this article, we thus apply a holistic repertoire perspective that offers essential descriptive insights. We consider active social media users that 1) use multiple communication platforms, 2) apply various communication practices, and 3) curate distinct communication partners. We analyze data from a representative survey among late adolescents (ages 15–19) in Switzerland and explore the use of six social media platforms (i.e., Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook). We identify social media repertoires, analyze consumption, sharing, and curation practices, and compare perceived and addressed actors across platforms. The implications for future media use and effects research are discussed.</p> Tobias Frey Thomas N. Friemel Copyright (c) 2023 Tobias Frey, Thomas N. Friemel 2023-02-23 2023-02-23 3 1 33 10.51685/jqd.2023.002 Slava Ukraini: Exploring Identity Activism in Support of Ukraine via the Ukraine Flag Emoji on Twitter <p>Identity Activism is a new phenomenon afforded by the massive popularity of social media. It consists of the prominent display of a social movement symbol within a space reserved for description of the self. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine provides a contemporary (yet unfortunate) opportunity to observe this phenomenon. Here, we introduce and explore this concept in the context of the recent Twitter trend of displaying the Ukraine flag emoji in bios and names to signal support of Ukraine. We explore several questions, including: how has the popularity of this trend changed over time, are users who display the flag more likely to be connected to others who do, and what types of users are and are not participating. We find that Ukraine flag emoji prevalence in both names and bios increased many-fold in late February 2022, with it becoming the 11th most prevalent emoji in bios and the 3rd most prevalent emoji in names during March. We also find evidence that users who display the flag in their bio or name are more likely to follow and be followed by others who also do so, as compared to users who do not. Finally, we observe that users who share politically left-leaning messages were most likely to display the emoji. Those who share account information from alternative social media sites and non-personal accounts appear least likely. These findings give us insight into how users participate in Identity Activism, what connections exist between participating users, and, in this particular case, what types of users participate.</p> Margot Hare Jason Jones Copyright (c) 2023 Margot A. Hare, Jason J. Jones 2023-03-11 2023-03-11 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.005 Testing, Testing: Identifying Contemporary Analytics Practices in Digital Politics <p>Digital analytics in contemporary politics receives tremendous attention from the media and has been the focus of a great deal of research over the last two decades. However, the actual practices that characterize work in the field often fail to receive sufficient attention. This paper presents the results of a quantitative content analysis describing the contents of 39 digital analytics case studies reporting the results of 68 individual A/B tests to learn about testing practices as they exist at high levels in contemporary U.S. politics. We find an emphasis on email and website testing, predominantly focused on fundraising and engagement outcomes. Our findings illuminate the mundane but substantive impacts of testing, which are predominantly focused on improving fundraising and email performance. Since firms made these case studies publicly available on their website, they also serve as marketing materials. In this manner we can understand how the practice of analytics is sold to political organizations looking to engage in digital testing.</p> Katherine Haenschen Carl Cilke Alise Boal Copyright (c) 2023 Katherine Haenschen, Carl Cilke, Alise Boal 2023-05-15 2023-05-15 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.012 Political Discourse in China: How Does China Frame Hong Kong Protests to Its Domestic Audience? <p>The Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, starting from June 9, 2019, have presented a challenge to the Chinese regime. How has Chinese official media responded to this crisis on the internet? How has the regime framed the anti-regime protests to its mainland audience? In this paper, I describe the strategies used by the Chinese propaganda apparatus to enhance regime resilience. Using text analysis and data collected from Chinese official media, I show that China uses three main discursive devices in reporting on the Hong Kong protests to its domestic audience. First, the regime draws a clear line between in-group and out-group members. Second, the regime tries to promote internal solidarity by emphasizing unifying values such as nationalism and patriotism among in-group members to prevent influence from out-group members. Finally, the regime presents an external enemy to its domestic audience. In addition, using data collected from <em>The New York Times</em>, I also show a comparison between the Western framing and the Chinese framing of the movement.</p> Yufan Yang Copyright (c) 2023 Yufan Yang 2023-05-15 2023-05-15 3 10.51685/jqd.2023.013