Social media played a huge roll in the 2016 US election with respect to how the candidates used it, how it impacted the public, and its ability to spread false information.

The Candidates' use of social media

Social media platforms are playing an increasingly large role in the way campaigns communicate with voters. In January 2016, 44% of U.S. adults reported having learned about the 2016 presidential election in the past week from social media, outpacing both local and national print newspapers. As of July, 24% say they turned to the social media posts of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for news and information about the election. Looking at a study of 714 tweets and 389 Facebook posts made by Hilary and Trump between May 11 and May 31, 2016, finds that the two candidates post at similar rates but differ in the focus of these posts and in the attention they receive from the public.

On Facebook, Clinton mostly uses links to highlight official campaign communications while Trump links frequently to the news media. On Twitter, Trump stands out for retweeting ordinary people more often than Clinton. Videos, meanwhile, appeared in about a quarter of Clinton’s social media posts, compared with about one-in-ten of Trump’s. Finally, on both platforms, when the candidates mention their opponents, Clinton and Trump focus on each much more than any other candidates did.

 SOCIAL MEDIA 

For example, Donald Trump, actually used social media the most during his campaign. His tweets about Hilary were completely outrageous with content like. “If Hilary can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?” And somehow despite social media material like this, Donald Trump is now the president on the United States. Hilary did respond with similar tweets insisting that Trump should just delete his account to save himself the embarrassment. The interactions between these two candidates gave them so much publicity that it is argued this was a big contributor to them being the final two runners.

The Candidates' use of social media

Social media's impact on the public

Social media spreading false information 

University of Queensland journalism and computer science lecturer Dr Daniel Angus said some "trolls" made fake news for fun, but others did it with a political purpose. But just how popular were fake news stories during this year's presidential race? BuzzFeed News reported that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined. Let's remember that millions of post are flying around, but more fake news stories generated hits than genuine news stories in the last critical months of the election.

"I am sure many of these posts would have influenced voters,” Professor Pearson of Oxford university said. In fact, 20 percent of social media users say they've modified their stance on a social or political issue because of material they saw on social media, and 17 percent say social media has helped to change their views about a specific political candidate.

There were many stories during the campaign that were falsified. For example, stories about Mr Trump calling Republicans the "dumbest group of voters" and Mrs Clinton accidentally paying the Islamic State group $US400 million were among those determined to be false by myth-busting website Snopes. On election day, stories claiming Harambe the gorilla, received thousands of votes were also found to be fake. Sean Hannity, the influential Fox News commentator and Trump backer, aired a story suggesting Michelle Obama had erased all her pro-Clinton tweets in the wake of the renewed FBI email probe. It was a fake, easily disproved simply by examining Obama’s Twitter feed. Hannity later apologized. Popular partisan news operations have posted pieces suggesting Russian hackers manipulated online polls to make it appear Trump won the first debate, and that the Republican presidential candidate wants to expel all Muslims.

References 

  1. Wang, Yu, Yuncheng Li, and Jiebo Luo. "Deciphering the 2016 US Presidential campaign in the Twitter sphere: A comparison of the Trumpists and Clintonists." arXiv preprint arXiv:1603.03097 (2016).

  2. Wang, Yu, et al. "Catching Fire via" Likes": Inferring Topic Preferences of Trump Followers on Twitter." arXiv preprint arXiv:1603.03099 (2016).

  3. Newman, Todd P. "Tracking the release of IPCC AR5 on Twitter: Users, comments, and sources following the release of the Working Group I Summary for Policymakers." Public Understanding of Science (2016): 0963662516628477.

  4. Shirky, Clay. "The political power of social media: Technology, the public sphere, and political change." Foreign affairs (2016): 28-41.

  5. Allcott, Hunt, and Matthew Gentzkow. Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. No. w23089. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2017.