Network PropagandaManipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics

Network PropagandaManipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics

Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780190923624

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

This book examines the shape, composition, and practices of the United States political media landscape. It explores the roots of the current epistemic crisis in political communication with a focus on the remarkable 2016 U.S. president election culminating in the victory of Donald Trump and the first year of his presidency. The authors present a detailed map of the American political media landscape based on the analysis of millions of stories and social media posts, revealing a highly polarized and asymmetric media ecosystem. Detailed case studies track the emergence and propagation of disinformation in the American public sphere that took advantage of structural weaknesses in the media institutions across the political spectrum. This book describes how the conservative faction led by Steve Bannon and funded by Robert Mercer was able to inject opposition research into the mainstream media agenda that left an unsubstantiated but indelible stain of corruption on the Clinton campaign. The authors also document how Fox News deflects negative coverage of President Trump and has promoted a series of exaggerated and fabricated counter narratives to defend the president against the damaging news coming out of the Mueller investigation. Based on an analysis of the actors that sought to influence political public discourse, this book argues that the current problems of media and democracy are not the result of Russian interference, behavioral microtargeting and algorithms on social media, political clickbait, hackers, sockpuppets, or trolls, but of asymmetric media structures decades in the making. The crisis is political, not technological.