Alternative Media Vary Between Mild Distortion and Extreme Misinformation: Steps Toward a Typology

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Abstract

#misinformation #fakenews #socialmedia

Social media has faced criticism for promoting misinformation. The role of alternative media in spreading misinformation, however, remains uncertain. We examined 1661 Facebook posts from 25 most popular alternative media outlets during the Covid-19 pandemic in five countries (France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and the US). Our codebook covered a wide range of categories, from mild misleading content to blatant misinformation. Through cluster analysis, we identified four reporting types in alternative media: Light distortion, heavy distortion, ideological misinformation, and extreme misinformation. Light and heavy distortion were most prevalent in popular alternative media, while ideological and extreme misinformation had smaller but more engaged audiences. In summary, alternative media found more success on Facebook with content categorized as light and heavy distortion. This typology recognizes complexity in misinformation and alternative media research, while simultaneously reduces complexity to contribute to comparative studies in the future.

Type of Publication
articles-and-papers
Theme
disinformation
Publishing
Digital Journalism
Publishing Date
2024
Language
english
Status
open-access
DOI
10.1080/21670811.2024.2326928
Authors
Anna Staender; Edda Humprecht; Frank Esser