Social Media and Democracy: Experimental Results
We are pleased to welcome Prof. Dr. Jens Prüfer, Professor of Economics at the University of East Anglia to Passau, where he will give a research talk on "Social Media and Democracy: Experimental Results" (joint paper with F. v. Gils and W. Müller). Jens Prüfer is a Mercator Fellow of the Research Training Group "Digital Platform Ecosystems".
Here is an abstract of Jens Prüfer's talk: Social media have become a main source of information for many voters. Political interest groups on social media platforms have the ability to (i) microtarget news based on individual-level voter data and (ii) obfuscate their identities, which can be exploited to spread disinformation. Two proposed interventions to prevent election manipulation by disinformation are a microtargeting ban and disclosure requirements. An empirical foundation for these interventions is missing. In a first set of treatments of our laboratory experiment, we study the effects of the implementation of a microtargeting ban and disclosure of interests in a social media environment on voting behavior. We find that disclosure of interests is essential to reduce the frequency of inefficient election outcomes. We also show that a microtargeting ban is redundant for `mainstream' voters but is needed to improve voter decision-making of a smaller, `niche' voter group. These findings are consistent with the result of our second set of treatments, in which we show that the transition from a traditional media environment to a social media environment makes all voters worse off. Lastly, we show that `niche’ voters are equally well off as `mainstream’ voters in games with public communication (one message for all voters) but stay behind in games with a microtargeted communication technology (one message for each voter group).
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