News and Events

TILEC Work in Progress: Freek van Gils

Media Manipulation and Electoral Outcomes in the Digital Age
10:45-11:45, T 50A

Media with a political interest may misrepresent news to influence the outcome of an election. Traditional news outlets such as newspapers are restricted to reporting the same news to all voters. Developments in digital technology have enabled micro-targeted news distribution – news can be tailored to users on the basis of information on individual user preferences and characteristics, as inferred from their digital footprints. In this paper, we develop a cheap talk game to study the influence of a news outlet with a hidden ideological bias on voting behavior of voters with heterogeneous ideological positions. We compare the electoral impact of a traditional news outlet and a microtargeting news outlet. Our main finding is that a microtargeting news outlet has more influence on an election outcome than a traditional outlet, even if voters are rational and understand that microtargeting takes place. If a news outlet transmits the same information to the entire electorate, the outlet’s preferred political candidate becomes more appealing to some but less to other voters due to the heterogeneity in voters’ ideological positions. While a microtargeting news outlet can solely inform the first voters, a traditional news outlet can only communicate at the expense of sacrificing the candidate’s attractiveness to the latter voters. We propose a policy measure to alleviate the negative effects of microtargeting on voting behavior.

When: 16 May 2018 10:45

End date: 16 May 2018 11:45

Where: Tias building