Watchdogs in the Social Network: A Polarized Perception?

Jorge Martins Rosa, Janna Joceli Omena, Daniel Cardoso

Abstract


Created in the end of 2015 and currently approaching the mark of 200 thousand followers, the Facebook page “Os Truques da Imprensa Portuguesa” [The Tricks of the Portuguese Press] posts critical remarks on the news of national media and their supposed editorial criteria. The page has often generated heated debates on the platform, either being praised for its role as a watchdog, or discredited as allegedly serving as the spokesperson for a hidden political agenda. Until recently, the anonymity of their writers was one of the arguments for this accusation, but when the identity of one of the admins was disclosed, promptly followed by the self-disclosure of both, this premise was rebutted.
This paper is focused on the reactions to the post on July 9th 2017 in which the admins revealed their names. Our goal is to evaluate the debate generated by this post, in particular concerning the polarization of positions and arguments among those that engaged with the post. To this end, we conduct a mostly exploratory research supported by visual network analysis and textual analysis. We first provide a global characterization of the page, and subsequently present some insights on the revealing post advanced by visual network analysis. Lastly, we look into textual content considering the “global mindset” of the discussion (topics, subtopics, and positionings for and against the page or the post), looking for eventual differences between the subsets of more active and less active commenters. We conclude that the engagement with the post (especially comments) was less polarized than expected, although with one notable exception, and that the relevance of the post rested more in its potential to fuel the debate around contemporary changes and practices in journalism and its multiple dimensions than in the positionings themselves.

Keywords


Facebook Pages, Engagement, Visual Network Analysis, Textual Analysis, Journalism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15847/obsOBS12520181367

License URL: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/