Salt Lake City -- Researchers at the UNIVERSITY OF UTAH and KONKUK UNIVERSITY found that news stories are perceived as biased based on who shares that story on social media, regardless if the actual story is biased. Published in Mass Communication & Society, "When social media become hostile media: An experimental examination of news sharing, partisanship and follower count," the study also examines how Republicans and Democrats perceive bias of a news story differently depending on how many followers a Twitter account has.
"Readers are inclined to believe that news content is unbiased, or less biased, when they share the same partisan affiliation as the source sharing the story than they are when the source does not share their partisan," said Tae Kyoung Lee, lead author and assistant professor of communication at the U.
To expand upon previous studies about the hostile media effect-which occurs when a neutral news story is perceived as biased against an individual's own viewpoint--researchers examined its impact in social media. Previous studies on hostile media effect have focused on traditional media and the sources that produce news content.
"About 62 percent of U.S. adults get news on social media, such as Reddit, Facebook and Twitter. Much of this content does not come directly from a traditional news source, but rather from an individual user who is sharing it with their social media friends and followers," said Lee.
Researchers pursued two questions in the study. First, does an ostensibly neutral story shared via a partisan social media user produce hostile media effect? Second, do overt signals about the potential size of the audience affect the hostile...