Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media
ISSN: 0883-8151 (Print) 1550-6878 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/hbem20
Digital Media and Politics: Effects of the Great
Information and Communication Divides
Homero Gil de Zúñiga & Hsuan-Ting Chen Guest Editors
To cite this article: Homero Gil de Zúñiga & Hsuan-Ting Chen Guest Editors (2019) Digital Media
and Politics: Effects of the Great Information and Communication Divides, Journal of Broadcasting
& Electronic Media, 63:3, 365-373, DOI: 10.1080/08838151.2019.1662019
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2019.1662019
Published online: 20 Sep 2019.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 6314
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Digital Media and Politics: Effects of the Great
Information and Communication Divides
Homero Gil de Zúñiga and Hsuan-Ting Chen
A substantial body of scholarship has long explored the ways emerging media
may foster and also hamper an informed and engaged citizenry. Individually,
digital media have become an integral part of citizens’political life as a growing
number of people around the world use digital media technologies for informa-
tion and communication. Collectively, digital media have also constituted an
important platform that people use to coordinate among themselves and mobi-
lize each other. Nevertheless, while distributing informative and mobilizing
messages, digital media also facilitate socio-political factors that raise concern
over the dissemination of misinformation, information divides and political polar-
ization. This article showcases a broad variety of studies included in a special
volume encapsulating some of these important issues.
For more than three decades, academic scholarship has explored how digital
media and social media have either contributed to or hindered the development of
an informed and engaged citizenry (Bennett & Segerberg, 2012; Boler, 2010;
Howard, 2005). The 2016 presidential election in the United States sparked greater
attention to several important communication issues.
Digital media have become an integral part of individual citizens’political lives as
a growing number of people around the world use digital media technologies for
information and communication. Collectively, digital media have also constituted an
important platform that people can use to coordinate and mobilize among like-minded
individuals. Nevertheless, while distributing informative and mobilizing messages, digital
Homero Gil de Zúñiga (Ph.D., in Politics at Universidad Europea de Madrid and Ph.D. in Mass
Communication at University of Wisconsin –Madison), serves as Research Fellow at the Universidad
Diego Portales, Chile; and holds the Medienwandel Professorship at University of Vienna, where he directs
the Media Innovation Lab (MiLab). His research addresses the influence of new technologies and digital
media over people’s daily lives, as well as the effect of such use on the overall democratic process.
Hsuan-Ting Chen (Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin) is an associate professor at the School of
Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research addresses the uses of
digital media technologies and their impact on individuals’daily lives, political communication processes,
and democratic engagement.
© 2019 Broadcast Education Association Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 63(3), 2019, pp. 365–373
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2019.1662019 ISSN: 0883-8151 print/1550-6878 online
media also facilitate socio-political factors that raise concern over the dissemination of
misinformation, information divides and political polarization.
In this Introduction to the Special Issue aiming at addressing the concerns associated
with this Information and Communication Divide, we highlight some of the most impor-
tant and relevant aspects of digital media for the research community to consider. From
more traditional theoretical accounts such as hostile media perception and agenda setting
to cutting-edge theoretical and empirical contributions dealing with news curation,
algorithms, and misinformation, this issue showcases ten different studies that provide
a solid, diverse, and desperately-needed view of the most pressing theoretical issues in
political communication today.
Mobilization and Political Behavior
Recent studies on the internet and political activism have highlighted the sig-
nificant role of digital media in shaping diverse forms of political participation and
mobilizing large-scale social protests around the world (Chen, Chan, & Lee, 2016;
Lee & Chan, 2018; Loader & Mercea, 2011; Valenzuela, 2013). Digital media such
as Twitter and Facebook provide a platform for cognitive, affective and behavioral
connections that enable people to network collaboratively (Sandoval-Almazan &
Gil-Garcia, 2014). For instance, digital media provide people with news and
mobilizing information and allow them to exchange their opinions with many
others, motivating them to engage in public activities (Shmargad & Klar, 2019). In
addition, digital media content can be quickly updated without expending
a significant amount of time, money and physical effort, which enables digital
media users to easily pursue their communication goals through different activities
online (Montgomery & Xenos, 2008).
Accordingly, digital media can play a significant role in the development of democ-
racy. Bennett and Segerbert’s(2012) explication of the logic of connective action and
Castells’(2012) definition of networked social movement provide theoretical founda-
tions for many studies that have found positive relationships between digital media use
and citizens’participatory behaviors. Trace (big) data generated by digital media use
also offer opportunities and open new challenges to observe dynamic relationships in
collective action and social movements (Gil de Zúñiga & Diehl, 2017; Hargittai, 2015;
Jungherr, Schoen, Posegga, & Jürgens, 2017; Wells & Thorson, 2017).
Given that digital media have rapidly integrated different functions and affor-
dances, it is important to revisit the different ways that they have been utilized to
understand how the influence of these different applications may vary across plat-
forms, practice and connections to explore new modalities of political engagement
and civic practices. It is also crucial to investigate how these new political com-
munication modalities, which are sustained through digitally networked media,
may have converged to open an era of an unedited public sphere (Bimber & Gil
de Zúñiga, 2019).
366 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/September 2019
Fake news has become a buzzword, especially after the 2016 presidential elec-
tion in the United States (Grinberg, Joseph, Friedland, Swire-Thompson, & Lazer,
2019; Persily, 2017). The development of digital media technologies and the
fragmentation of information have facilitated the spread of misinformation and/or
fake news. While scholars have strived to clearly define fake news, the concept is
not new. The broadcast of a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells’drama The War of
Worlds represents an example of widespread misinformation as far back as 1938.
Tandoc, Lim, and Ling (2018) used levels of facticity and deception to provide
a typology of fake news definitions for different types of information, such as
negative advertising, propaganda, manipulation, fabrication, news satire and news
parody. Nevertheless, many questions related to fake news and misinformation in
the “post-truth”era remain unanswered (Bode & Vraga, 2015). Continuing devel-
opment of the definition of fake news, examining the complex factors that have
contributed to the rise of misinformation, understanding how misinformation affects
civil society and exploring how to combat misinformation and elicit news cred-
ibility are all important tasks for scholars in the near future (Oeldorf-Hirsch &
Information Divide and Political Polarization
While the positive effect of digital media technologies on participatory behaviors
has been well documented (Bimber & Copeland, 2013; Holt, Shehata, Strömbäck,
& Ljungberg, 2013), a heated debate concerns whether digital media can help to
develop a more deliberative society (Halpern & Gibbs, 2013; Rasmussen, 2013).
According to a 2017 Pew Research Center report, two-thirds of U.S. adults get their
news from social media. The proliferation of information communication technol-
ogies has provided diversified channels where citizens can engage in free and open
dialog and access information on various political and social issues (Lyons, 2019).
As people are increasingly turning away from mass media to social media as a way
of learning news and civic information, new opportunities (Glynn, Huge, &
Hoffman, 2012; Lee, Chan, Chen, Nielsen, & Fletcher, 2019; Lee & Ma, 2012)
and challenges (Gil de Zúñiga, Ardèvol-Abreu, & Casero-Ripollés, 2019; Gil de
Zúñiga, Weeks, & Ardèvol-Abreu, 2017) will arise. For instance, online social
networks influence the type and amount of information to which people are
exposed, and social media platforms curate content based on algorithmic informa-
tion sorting, which elicits critical issues that affect the development of the demo-
cratic process (Anderson, 2013; Gil de Zúñiga, & Diehl, 2019; Stanoevska-Slabeva,
Sacco, & Giardina, 2012).
How much the changing boundaries of social media and the transforming dynamics
of digital networks facilitate the information divide and influence individuals’political
Gil de Zúñiga and Chen/DIGITAL MEDIA AND POLITICS 367
information sharing, conversation and engagement will become an influential line of
inquiryforyearstocome(Chen,2018; Diakopoulos & Koliska, 2017). Our current
media environment produces a paradox in which citizens could be immersed in
larger, more diverse, and heterogenous networks of political discussion and informa-
tion while at the same time also being exposed to potential filter bubbles and echo
chambers (Bimber & Gil de Zúñiga, 2019). Scholars need to systematically examine
the factors and conditions under which the information flow and network structure in
social media encourage citizens across the ideological spectrum to exchange opi-
nions. This will provide significant implications for ideological and partisan political
divides and social change (Dunlap, McCright, & Yarosh, 2016).
Articles in This Issue
This special issue brings scholars together to consider the changing dynamic of
digital media in the current political landscape. The articles presented here analyze
different communication issues through theory-informed empirical studies with
different methodological approaches. The special issue begins with Weeks, Kim,
Hahn, Diehl and Kwak’s study on the perception of media bias. They investigated
whether and how social media use contributes to hostile media perceptions.
Analyzing two-wave panel survey data collected in the United States during the
2016 presidential election, their findings suggest that following politicians’social
feeds can lead to hostile media perception. The effect functions by triggering
followers’enthusiasm about the supported candidate and anger about the opposing
candidate. These findings raise concern about increasing reliance on politicians’
social media feeds as sources of campaign information, given that political cam-
paigns can use social media platforms to stir political emotions, which could lead to
perceptions of media bias.
Another important aspect of misinformation online does not deal with whether or
not it exists, how it is disseminated or its effects, but rather, how can we correct
these views and contribute to lower misinformation levels online (Lewandowsky,
Ecker, Seifert, Schwarz, & Cook, 2012). In this vein, Vraga, Kim and Cook con-
ducted a survey experiment to assess the effectiveness of logic-based or humor-
based corrections of misinformation in influencing credibility ratings for inaccurate
posts on Twitter and reducing misperceptions across the issues of climate change,
gun control and HPV vaccination. They found that the effectiveness of corrections
of misinformation varies across topics, with the two types of corrections reducing
misperceptions only for HPV vaccination. This study offers a valuable insight into
therapeutic inoculation as a correction strategy and suggests that its effects depend
on issue domain, the type of correction approach (logic versus humor) and pre-
existing misperceptions about the issue.
Within the scope of the prior work by Vraga and colleagues, but drawing on the
persuasion knowledge model, Amazeen and Bucy addressed how procedural news
368 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/September 2019
knowledge (PNK), a more nuanced understanding of the news, may confer resistance to
mediated disinformation efforts. Utilizing data from two national surveys in the United
States, they found that PNK facilitates recognition of disinformation and affects con-
sequent coping responses by prompting counterargument. PNK can function as an
implicit forewarning mechanism and a vital cognitive resource. It can also protect
people from covert persuasion and work against media disinformation.
Park, Straubhaar and Strover conceptualized the ambivalent construct of techno-
logical embeddedness, considering the relationship between technological compe-
tence and technological dependence. Their analysis of survey data demonstrated
that technological competence was positively related to having higher information
literacy self-efficacy, but youth dependence, one of the three technological depen-
dence constructs was negatively related. The results also implied that each of these
factors can be interrelated or interdependent in systematic ways. This study
advances the existing literature by relating the embeddedness framework to users’
information literacy self-efficacy and trust in information sources.
Park and Kaye incorporated news curation, or the reconstructing, reformulat-
ing, reframing and sharing of political news through social media, to the
Orientation-Stimuli-Reasoning-Orientation-Response model in a social media
context (see also Chan, Chen, & Lee, 2017; Cho et al., 2009). Drawing on
a national survey in South Korea, they found that both news curation and
elaboration play mediating roles in the relationship between social media use
for news and political knowledge. They also suggested that political interest and
efficacy play significant roles in enhancing the association between social media
use for news and political knowledge. Their study contributes to the literature on
political learning on social media by illuminating the direct and indirect roles of
news curation in the mediation models.
Turning again to the topic of media bias, Hedding, Miller, Abdenour and
Blankenship analyze media bias from the perspective of media content and media
ownership. They conducted a content analysis to investigate the difference between
Sinclair and non-Sinclair stations’political news coverage. Although the amount of
political coverage was similar between Sinclair and non-Sinclair stations, the ways
stations approached these stories, such as how political issues are framed, what
topics are covered, and how ideological and partisan sources are deployed, are
different. Sinclair stations were more likely to deliver stories with a Palace Intrigue
frame compared to non-Sinclair stations. Furthermore, Sinclair stations report stories
with focuses on government actions instead of specific government policies and are
more inclined to provide a partisan point of view and use favorable sources which
could potentially harm the engaged citizenry. The findings highlight the concern
that media conglomerates could have the potential to have professional, ideological
and operational influence on how local news outlets produce news.
Price and Kaufhold focused on the immigration issue and examined the relation-
ships between border-state residency, party identity, selective exposure and support
for immigration. Using a secondary dataset and an original survey conducted in the
Gil de Zúñiga and Chen/DIGITAL MEDIA AND POLITICS 369
states of Ohio and Texas, they found that Democrats are more likely to use a variety
of media platforms, while Republicans were more likely to segregate themselves to
like-minded media and to avoid traditional objective sources like national news-
papers or broadcast TV news. They also provided evidence that exposure to
counter-attitudinal news outlets did not diminish partisan attitudes, while exposure
to attitude-consistent media validated them. In addition, party identity was
a stronger predictor of immigration attitudes than media consumption habits.
Border-state residency, however, did not moderate attitudes about immigration.
Applying the network agenda-setting theory and adopting supervised machine
learning and semantic network analysis with large-scale data, Chen, Su and Chen
examined Chinese nationalism discourse on Weibo, the most popular Chinese
social media platform. This study is an exploratory attempt to understand the
different roles of online actors in setting the agenda, which could prompt a bottom-
up model of nation building. Chen et al. explored different Weibo accounts includ-
ing organizational accounts, individual influencers’accounts and ordinary indivi-
dual accounts and found that media agenda influences individuals’agenda, while
the construction of nationalism follows a bottom-up direction.
Drawing on networked social influence theory (Friedkin, 2006;Li,2013),
Saffer, Yang, and Qu investigated whether general network characteristics, opi-
nion climates and network heterogeneity influence individuals’perceptions of
a politically involved corporation and intentions to engage in consumer activism.
Using the case of Uber’s inadvertent involvement in U.S. President Donald
Trump’s“Muslim travel ban”as the context and an egocentric survey design,
they showcase that ethnic diversity of discussion partners and opinion hetero-
geneity influenced the perceptions of Uber’s corporate image and likelihood to
engage in consumer activism.
The last article in this volume is comparative study that examines the extent to
which news media use and press freedom in eight countries would influence
education-generated participation inequality. Ahmed and Cho emphasized both
content and platform-specific measures of media use and suggested that the impact
of information uses of different media is not the same. They documented that the
informational use of news content from print newspaper, radio and social media
sources increases the likelihood of political participation, and the positive relation-
ships between news content use from the radio and social media sources and
political participation are stronger for higher- than lower-educated groups. Press
freedom is also a significant contextual factor reinforcing the role of TV news, print
news and social media use in participatory inequality.
This special issue invites greater scholarly attention to the transformation of digital
affordances, the allocation of political resources, the diffusion of political discourse,
and the structure of political opportunity in the digital age.
370 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/September 2019
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Homero Gil de Zúñiga http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4187-3604
Hsuan-Ting Chen http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3140-5169
Anderson, C. W. (2013). Towards a sociology of computational and algorithmic journalism.
New Media & Society,15(7), 1005–1021.
Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2012). The logic of connective action: Digital media and the
personalization of contentious politics. Information, Communication & Society,15(5),
Bimber, B., & Copeland, L. (2013). Digital media and traditional political participation over
time in the US. Journal of Information Technology & Politics,10(2), 125–137.
Bimber, B., & Gil de Zúñiga, H. (2019). The unedited public sphere. New Media & Society.
Bode, L., & Vraga, E. K. (2015). In related news, that was wrong: The correction of misinfor-
mation through related stories functionality in social media. Journal of Communication,65
Boler, M. (2010). Digital media and democracy: Tactics in hard times. Cambridge, MA: MIT
Castells, M. (2012). Networks of outrage and hope: Social movements in the internet age.
Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Chan, M., Chen, H.-T., & Lee, F. L. F. (2017). Examining the roles of mobile and social media
in political participation: A cross-national analysis of three Asian societies using
a communication mediation approach. New Media & Society,19(2), 2003–2021.
Chen, H.-T. (2018). Spiral of silence on social media and the moderating role of disagreement
and publicness in the network: Analyzing expressive and withdrawal behaviors. New
Media & Society,20(10), 3917–3936.
Chen, H.-T., Chan, M., & Lee, F. L. F. (2016). Social media use and democratic engagement:
A comparative study of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. Chinese Journal of
Cho, J., Shah, D. V., McLeod, J. M., McLeod, D. M., Scholl, R. M., & Gotlieb, M. R. (2009).
Campaigns, reflection, and deliberation: Advancing an OSROR model of communication
effects. Communication Theory,19(1), 66–88.
Diakopoulos, N., & Koliska, M. (2017). Algorithmic transparency in the news media. Digital
Dunlap, R. E., McCright, A. M., & Yarosh, J. H. (2016). The political divide on climate change:
Partisan polarization widens in the US. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable
Friedkin, N. E. (2006). A structural theory of social influence (Vol. 13). Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press.
Gil de Zúñiga, H., Ardèvol-Abreu, A., & Casero-Ripollés, A. (2019). WhatsApp political
discussion, conventional participation and activism: Exploring direct, indirect and genera-
tional effects [published online]. Information, Communication & Society,1–18.
Gil de Zúñiga and Chen/DIGITAL MEDIA AND POLITICS 371
Gil de Zúñiga, H., & Diehl, T. (2017). Citizenship, social media, and big data: Current and
future research in the social sciences. Social Science Computer Review,35(1), 3–9.
Gil de Zúñiga, H., & Diehl, T. (2019). News finds me perception and democracy: Effects on
political knowledge, political interest, and voting. New Media & Society,21(6),
Gil de Zúñiga, H., Weeks, B., & Ardèvol-Abreu, A. (2017). Effects of the news-finds-me
perception in communication: Social media use implications for news seeking and learning
about politics. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication,22(3), 105–123.
Glynn, C. J., Huge, M. E., & Hoffman, L. H. (2012). All the news that’s fit to post: A profile of
news use on social networking sites. Computers in Human Behavior,28(1), 113–119.
Grinberg, N., Joseph, K., Friedland, L., Swire-Thompson, B., & Lazer, D. (2019). Fake news on
Twitter during the 2016 US presidential election. Science,363(6425), 374–378.
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
Hargittai, E. (2015). Is bigger always better? Potential biases of big data derived from social
network sites. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,659(1),
Holt, K., Shehata, A., Strömbäck, J., & Ljungberg, E. (2013). Age and the effects of news media
attention and social media use on political interest and participation: Do social media
function as leveller? European Journal of Communication,28(1), 19–34.
Howard, P. N. (2005). Deep democracy, thin citizenship: The impact of digital media in
political campaign strategy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social
Jungherr, A., Schoen, H., Posegga, O., & Jürgens, P. (2017). Digital trace data in the study of
public opinion: An indicator of attention toward politics rather than political support.
Social Science Computer Review,35(3), 336–356.
Lee, C. S., & Ma, L. (2012). News sharing in social media: The effect of gratifications and prior
experience. Computers in Human Behavior,28(2), 331–339.
Lee, F. L. F., & Chan, J. M. (2018). Media and protest logics in the digital era: Hong Kong’s
umbrella movement. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lee, F. L. F., Chan, M., Chen, H.-T., Nielsen, R., & Fletcher, R. (2019). Consumptive news feed
curation on social media as proactive personalization: A study of six east Asian markets
[published online]. Journalism Studies,1–16. doi:10.1080/1461670X.2019.1586567.
Lewandowsky, S., Ecker, U. K., Seifert, C. M., Schwarz, N., & Cook, J. (2012). Misinformation
and its correction: Continued influence and successful debiasing. Psychological Science in
the Public Interest,13(3), 106–131.
Li, C. Y. (2013). Persuasive messages on information system acceptance: A theoretical exten-
sion of elaboration likelihood model and social influence theory. Computers in Human
Loader, B. D., & Mercea, D. (2011). Networking democracy? Social media innovations and
participatory politics. Information, Communication & Society,14(6), 757–769.
Lyons, B. A. (2019). Discussion network activation: An expanded approach to selective
exposure. Media and Communication,7(3), 32–41.
Montgomery, K. C., & Xenos, M. (2008). Civic life online: Learning how digital media can
engage youth. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Oeldorf-Hirsch, A., & DeVoss, C. L. (2019). Who posted that story? Processing layered sources
in Facebook news posts. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly.
Persily, N. (2017). The 2016 US election: Can democracy survive the internet? Journal of
Rasmussen, T. (2013). Internet-based media, Europe and the political public sphere. Media,
Culture & Society,35(1), 97–104.
372 Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media/September 2019
Sandoval-Almazan, R., & Gil-Garcia, J. R. (2014). Towards cyberactivism 2.0? Understanding
the use of social media and other information technologies for political activism and social
movements. Government Information Quarterly,31(3), 365–378.
Shmargad, Y., & Klar, S. (2019). How partisan online environments shape communication
with political outgroups. International Journal of Communication,13, 2287–2313.
Stanoevska-Slabeva, K., Sacco, V., & Giardina, M. (2012, April). Content curation: A new
form of gatewatching for social media. Proceedings of the 12th International Symposium on
Online Journalism, Austin, Texas..
Tandoc, E. C., Lim, Z. W., & Ling, R. (2018). Defining “fake news”.Digital Journalism,6(2),
Valenzuela, S. (2013). Unpacking the use of social media for protest behavior: The roles of
information, opinion expression, and activism. American Behavioral Scientist,57(7),
Wells, C., & Thorson, K. (2017). Combining big data and survey techniques to model effects of
political content flows in Facebook. Social Science Computer Review,35(1), 33–52.
Gil de Zúñiga and Chen/DIGITAL MEDIA AND POLITICS 373