Funded Grant Title: Is Facebook News Biased Against my Opinion?: Testing the Influence of comments on the Hostile Media Effect & a Solution to the Problem
Principal Investigator: Sherice Gearhart, Texas Tech University
Additional Investigator(s)/Researchers: Ioana Coman, Texas Tech University; Alexander Moe, SUNY Brockport; Sydney E. Brammer, Texas Tech University
Americans increasingly access news through social media, especially Facebook. News outlets use these sites to disseminate news because they are free, expand their reach, and serve as a place for user engagement, especially through posting comments. While comment sections can be a burden due to the need for moderation, Facebook offers user engagement without the need for oversight. However, when news stories are shared, individuals are exposed to user comments before reading the story. This shapes the visible opinion climate and a limited amount of research has shown those comments inhibit the ability of readers to interpret the neutrality and credibility of a news story.
Our experimental research presents some of the first attempts to systematically analyze the impact of user comments seen before accessing a news story. Using a nationwide sample of Facebook users, we test the impact of user comments with a focus on COVID-19 preventive techniques and vaccine communication. In addition, we implement a knowledge quiz for a portion of the sample to test whether it can reduce the perception of bias imposed by user comments. This solution could effectively fill a gap in existent journalism and health communication research. This work demonstrates which elements of news distributed on social media impact perceptions of bias and credibility, while also testing a proposed solution that can induce positive behaviors that can result in an improved democratic society. This research has the potential to impart significant practical importance as our planned community outputs aim to freely share this work with news organizations and social media outlets.
Our research team includes:
- Dr. Sherice Gearhart (PI)
- Dr. Ioana Coman
- Dr. Alexander Moe
- Ms. Sydney E. Brammer
Research was supported by a grant from Villanova University's Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (WFI).
College of Media & Communication
AddressTexas Tech University, Box 43082, Lubbock, TX 79409