Political Bias and Factualness in News Sharing across more than 100,000 Online Communities

by   Galen Weld, et al.

As civil discourse increasingly takes place online, misinformation and the polarization of news shared in online communities have become ever more relevant concerns with real world harms across our society. Studying online news sharing at scale is challenging due to the massive volume of content which is shared by millions of users across thousands of communities. Therefore, existing research has largely focused on specific communities or specific interventions, such as bans. However, understanding the prevalence and spread of misinformation and polarization more broadly, across thousands of online communities, is critical for the development of governance strategies, interventions, and community design. Here, we conduct the largest study of news sharing on reddit to date, analyzing more than 550 million links spanning 4 years. We use non-partisan news source ratings from Media Bias/Fact Check to annotate links to news sources with their political bias and factualness. We find that, compared to left-leaning communities, right-leaning communities have 105 to relatively-more biased sources, on average. We observe that reddit users' voting and re-sharing behaviors generally decrease the visibility of extremely biased and low factual content, which receives 20 exposures from crossposts than more neutral or more factual content. This suggests that reddit is more resilient to low factual content than Twitter. We show that extremely biased and low factual content is very concentrated, with 99 to the recent strategy of community-wide bans and quarantines.


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