First Monday 2020-10-28T13:45:37-05:00 Edward J. Valauskas Open Journal Systems <p><em>First Monday</em> is one of the first openly accessible, peer–reviewed journals solely devoted to resarch about the Internet. <em>First Monday</em> has published 1,988 papers in 294 issues,&nbsp;written by 2,845 different authors over the past 24 years. No subscription fees, no submission fees, no advertisements, no fundraisers, no walls.</p> Characterizing social media manipulation in the 2020 U.S. presidential election 2020-10-28T13:45:31-05:00 Emilio Ferrara Herbert Chang Emily Chen Goran Muric Jaimin Patel <p>Democracies are postulated upon the ability to carry out fair elections, free from any form of interference or manipulation. Social media have been reportedly used to distort public opinion nearing election events in the United States and beyond. With over 240 million election-related tweets recorded between 20 June and 9 September 2020, in this study we chart the landscape of social media manipulation in the context of the upcoming 3 November 2020 U.S. presidential election. We focus on characterizing two salient dimensions of social media manipulation, namely (i) automation (<em>e.g.</em>, the prevalence of bots), and (ii) distortion (<em>e.g.</em>, manipulation of narratives, injection of conspiracies or rumors). Despite being outnumbered by several orders of magnitude, just a few thousands of bots generated spikes of conversations around real-world political events in all comparable with the volume of activity of humans. We discover that bots also exacerbate the consumption of content produced by users with their same political views, worsening the issue of political echo chambers. Furthermore, coordinated efforts carried out by Russia, China and other countries are hereby characterized. Finally, we draw a clear connection between bots, hyper-partisan media outlets, and conspiracy groups, suggesting the presence of systematic efforts to distort political narratives and propagate disinformation. Our findings may have impactful implications, shedding light on different forms of social media manipulation that may, altogether, ultimately pose a risk to the integrity of the election.</p> 2020-10-19T17:32:49-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday Americans’ willingness to adopt a COVID-19 tracking app 2020-10-28T13:45:37-05:00 Eszter Hargittai Elissa M. Redmiles Jessica Vitak Michael Zimmer <p>The COVID-19 global pandemic led governments, health agencies, and technology companies to work on solutions to minimize the spread of the disease. One such solution concerns contact-tracing apps whose utility is tied to widespread adoption. Using survey data collected a few weeks into lockdown measures in the United States, we explore Americans’ willingness to install a COVID-19 tracking app. Specifically, we evaluate how the distributor of such an app (<em>e.g.</em>, government, health-protection agency, technology company) affects people’s willingness to adopt the tool. While we find that 67 percent of respondents are willing to install an app from at least one of the eight providers included, the factors that predict one’s willingness to adopt differ. Using Nissenbaum’s theory of privacy as contextual integrity, we explore differences in responses across distributors and discuss why some distributors may be viewed as less appropriate than others in the context of providing health-related apps during a global pandemic. We conclude the paper by providing policy recommendations for wide-scale data collection that minimizes the likelihood that such tools violate the norms of appropriate information flows.</p> 2020-10-06T15:10:08-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday Social discourse and reopening after COVID-19 2020-10-28T13:45:36-05:00 Massimo Stella <p>Although the COVID-19 pandemic has not been quenched yet, many countries lifted nationwide lockdowns to restart their economies, with citizens discussing the facets of reopening over social media. Investigating these online messages can open a window into people’s minds, unveiling their overall perceptions, their fears and hopes about the reopening. This window is opened and explored here for Italy, the first European country to adopt and release lockdown, by extracting key ideas and emotions over time from 400k Italian tweets about #fase2 — the reopening. Cognitive networks highlighted dynamical patterns of positive emotional contagion and inequality denounce invisible to sentiment analysis, in addition to a behavioural tendency for users to retweet either joyous or fearful content. While trust, sadness and anger fluctuated around quarantine-related concepts over time, Italians perceived politics and the government with a polarised emotional perception, strongly dominated by trust but occasionally featuring also anger and fear.</p> 2020-10-12T16:01:33-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday Crowdfunding during COVID-19: An international comparison of online fundraising 2020-10-28T13:45:32-05:00 Greg Elmer Sabrina Ward-Kimola Anthony Glyn Burton <p>This article performs a digital methods analysis on a sample of online crowdfunding campaigns seeking financial support for COVID related financial challenges. Building upon the crowdfunding literature this paper performs an international comparison of the goals of COVID related campaigns during the early spread of the pandemic. The paper seeks to determine the extent to which crowdfunding campaigns reflect current failures of governments to supress the COVID pandemic and support the financial challenges of families, communities and small businesses.</p> 2020-10-16T16:40:12-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday A short history of pandemic coverage on the Internet 2020-10-28T13:45:35-05:00 Will Mari <p>This short history of previous online pandemic news coverage (of SARS, H1N1, MERS, c. 2003–2012) draws on Pew Research Center data and then-contemporary primary sources, including meta-journalistic analysis, to explore continuities and divergences to the present and our ongoing coranavirus pandemic. Numerous trends, including a cycle of neglect and panic, emerged on the Internet in the 2000s, and have become exacerbated over time. Other, more positive trends, such as more interactive and helpfully mediated/curated access to health experts, have also emerged. This study provides important context for our current moment.</p> 2020-10-14T12:10:02-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday Automated measurement of attitudes towards social distancing using social media: A COVID-19 case study 2020-10-28T13:45:29-05:00 A.S.M. Kayes Md. Saiful Islam Paul A. Watters Alex Ng Humayun Kayesh <p>The COVID-19 outbreak has focused attention on the use of social distancing as the primary defence against community infection. Forcing social animals to maintain physical distance has presented significant challenges for health authorities and law enforcement. Anecdotal media reports suggest widespread dissatisfaction with social distancing as a policy, yet there is little prior work aimed at measuring community acceptance of social distancing. In this paper, we propose a new approach to measuring attitudes towards social distancing by using social media and sentiment analysis. Over a four-month period, we found that 82.5 percent of tweets were in favour of social distancing. The results indicate a widespread acceptance of social distancing in a selected community. We examine options for estimating the optimal (minimal) social distance required at scale, and the implications for securing widespread community support and for appropriate crisis management during emergency health events.</p> 2020-10-21T14:57:27-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday Tracing normiefication 2020-10-28T13:45:26-05:00 Daniel de Zeeuw Sal Hagen Stijn Peeters Emilija Jokubauskaite <p>This article presents a cross-platform analysis of the QAnon conspiracy theory that was popularized online from 2017 onward. It theorizes its diffusion as one of <em>normiefication</em>: a term drawing from Web vernacular indicating how ideas and objects travel from fringe online subcultures to large audiences on mainstream platforms and news outlets. It finds that QAnon had a clear incubation period on 4chan/pol/ after which it quickly migrated to larger platforms, notably YouTube and Reddit. News media started covering the online phenomenon only when it moved off-line, which in turn briefly amplified engagement on the other platforms. Through these data-driven insights, we aim to demonstrate how this cross-platform approach can be replicated and thus help make sense of the complexity of contemporary media ecologies and their role in the diffusion of conspiracy theories as well as other forms of mis- and disinformation.</p> 2020-10-26T15:57:23-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday Online harassment of U.S. women journalists and its impact on press freedom 2020-10-28T13:45:27-05:00 Caitlin Ring Carlson Haley Witt <p>This investigation aimed to determine whether and how online harassment affects U.S. women journalists. Of particular interest was whether online harassment creates a chilling effect by limiting the types of stories and topics that are covered, which may influence press freedom. The survey (<em>n</em>=141) indicated that negative online interactions caused most participants to feel dissatisfied with their jobs. A chilling effect on coverage was also evident in responses from participants. Some respondents avoided certain stories for fear of online abuse they would receive. An overwhelming majority of U.S. women journalists (79 percent) agreed that online harassment affected press freedom. In the United States, a free and fair press is an essential component of our democracy. This study found that online harassment prevents women journalists from serving in their capacity as a watchdog on government and other institutions.</p> 2020-10-22T04:29:37-05:00 Copyright (c) 2020 First Monday