Understanding the Seaside, CA Information Landscape
This report seeks to understand how political information spreads in Seaside’s Twittersphere and the types of accounts, content and network groupings that facilitate this spread. We began by analyzing the politically - engaged twitter handles with the most tweets during a 4-week time period starting May1st. By studying the content of the area’s most prolific tweeters, we learn about the kinds of accounts with local influence.
Existing research concerned with the spreading of viral political information online, combined with documented efforts by Russian operatives on social media to influence the American electorate, underscores the significant role played by polarization in shaping how Americans consume propaganda online. Viral political content appears to be driven in large part by so-called echo chambers: polarized online communities that share and receive bias-confirming content from users with similar views, particularly when that content is extreme and/or controversial in nature. It is clear from examples of Russian interference during the 2016 election cycle that disinformation is frequently designed to target these polarized communities and to influence their conversations on important issues.
If people form political opinions based on polarized, often extreme and false information received online, foreign efforts to spread propaganda have a clear path towards influencing real electoral outcomes. With this in mind, we attempt to analyze Seaside’s vulnerability to foreign and domestic influence by observing polarization online (by analyzing echo chambers), and by identifying those important and controversial issues people in the Seaside care most strongly about (through surveys and interviews).