Social media as a catalyst for online deliberation? Exploring the affordances of Facebook and YouTube for political expression

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Abstract

This manuscript aims to assess the potential of social media as a channel to foster democratic deliberation. It does this by examining whether the types of discussions that citizens maintain in two of the most used social media channels managed by the White House – Facebook and YouTube – meet the necessary conditions for deliberative democracy. For this purpose 7230 messages were analyzed and assessed in terms of indicators developed to evaluate online discourse derived from the work of Habermas. By contrasting social media channels that differ in the affordances of identifiability and networked information access (two traditional predictors of online deliberation), we seek to contribute a deeper understanding of social media and its impact on deliberation. Drawing on the social identification/deindividuation (SIDE) model of computer mediated communication and network theories, we predict that political discussions in Facebook will present a more egalitarian distribution of comments between discussants and higher level of politeness in their messages. Consistent with our theoretical framework, results confirm that Facebook expands the flow of information to other networks and enables more symmetrical conversations among users, whereas politeness is lower in the more anonymous and deindividuated YouTube.

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Halpern, D., & Gibbs, J. (2013). Social media as a catalyst for online deliberation? Exploring the affordances of Facebook and YouTube for political expression. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 1159–1168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.10.008

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