Political and informative impact of social media: fields of action and comparison with the media

Salvador Enguix Oliver


This paper develops a theoretical analysis of the spheres of action of the social network companies proposing the hypothesis that these, like the media, have the nature of political actors, and are not simple channels. To confirm this hypothesis a descriptive methodology is used, based on bibliography and the vision offered by the media about the impact of social networks. In the first place, the fulfillment of the four features mentioned by Borrat (1989) regarding the newspaper as a political actor is reviewed. Secondly, four major areas of political and informational action are proposed for these companies: 1) the creation of communities, 2) the dissemination of content, 3) content filtering and hierarchization, and 4) the direct or indirect funding of political parties. These four areas undoubtedly have political effects on society, effects which can result both in strengthening the democratic quality of our societies and in their detriment. However, and with reference to Borrat’s model on the newspaper, these functions clearly depart from the role of the media in terms of independence and their status as critics objects, as well as in the fact of not generating their own content, which is defining the media.


social media; Twitter; Facebook; political journalism


AHMAD, A. N. (2010). «Is Twitter a useful tool for Journalists?». Journal of Media Practice, 11: 145–155. http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jmpr.11.2.145_1

ALLCOTT, H.; GENTZKOW, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election (No. w23089). National Bureau of Economic Research. https://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/fakenews.pdf

APPLEBAUM, A. (2015). «Mark Zuckerberg should spend $45 billion on undoing Facebook’s damage to democracies». The Washington Post (10/12/2015). https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mark-zuckerberg-could-spend-45-billion-on-undoing-facebooks-damage/2015/12/10/4b7d1ba0-9e91-11e5-a3c5-c77f2cc5a43c_story.html

BELL, E. (2015). «Emily Bell’s 2015 Hugh Cudlipp lecture-full text». 12 Conferencia anual Hugh Cudlipp. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jan/28/emily-bells-2015-hughcudlipp-lecture-full-text

— (2016). «Facebook is being taken somewhere it never wanted to go». Columbia Journal Review (26/09/2016). http://www.cjr.org/tow_center/facebook_zuckerberg_napalm_video_palestine.php

BOND, R. M. et al. (2012). «A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization». Nature, 489 (7415): 295–298. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11421

BORRAT, H. (1989a). El periódico, actor político. Barcelona: Gustavo Gili.

— (1989b). «El periódico, actor del sistema político». Anàlisi, 12: 67–80. http://ddd.uab.cat/pub/analisi/02112175n12/02112175n12p67.pdf

BOYD, D. (2016). «Facebook Must Be Accountable to the Public». Data & Society (13/05/2016). https://points.datasociety.net/facebook-must-be-accountable-to-the-public-72a6d1b0d32f#.7rig5qghh

CARRERA ÁLVAREZ, P. et al. (2012). «Periodismo y Social Media: cómo están usando Twitter los periodistas españoles». Estudios sobre el Mensaje Periodístico, 18 (1): 31–53. http://dx.doi.org/10.5209/rev_eSMP.2012.v18.n1.39353

CHEN, A. (2014). «The laborers who keep dick pics and beheadings out of your facebook feed». Wired (23/10/2014). http://www.wired.com/2014/10/content-moderation/

COOK, T. (1998). Governing with the News: the News Media as a Political Institution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

DOWD, C. (2016). «The new order of news and social media enterprises». Communication Research and Practice, 2.1: 97–110. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/22041451.2016.1155339

ENGUIX, S. (2015). Periodismo político: fundamentos, práctica, perspectivas. Bellaterra, Barcelona, Castelló y València: UAB – UJI – UPF – UV.

GALLARDO PAÚLS, B.; ENGUIX, S. (2016). Pseudopolítica: el discurso político en las redes sociales. Valencia: Universitat de València. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299284420_2016_Pseudopolitica_el_discurso_politico_en_las_redes_sociales

GARCÍA DE TORRES, E. et al. (2011). «Uso de Twitter y Facebook por los medios iberoamericanos». El Profesional de la Información, 20, núm. 6: 611–620. http://dx.doi.org/10.3145/epi.2011.nov.02

GIDDENS, A. (1979). Central Problems in Social Theory. Berkeley: UCP.

GONZÁLEZ, J. L. et al. (2015). «Tratamiento informativo y análisis del liderazgo político durante las elecciones autonómicas de 2015 en la Comunidad Valenciana». Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 70: 891–912.

GREENSLADE, R. (2016b). «Publishers call on government to help over Google and Facebook». The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/sep/22/publishersgovernment-google-facebook-newspaper

— (2016a). «Why Facebook is public enemy number one for newspapers, and journalism». The Guardian (20/09/2016). https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/sep/20/why-facebook-ispublic-enemy-number-one-for-newspapers-and-journalism

HEDMAN, U.; DJERF-PIERRE, M. (2013). «The social journalist: Embracing the social media life or creating a new digital divide?». Digital Journalism, 1.3: 368–385. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2013.776804

HERMIDA, A. (2010). «Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism». Journalism Practice, 4 (3): 297–308. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17512781003640703

HERMIDA, A. et al. (2012). «Share, like, recommend: Decoding the social media news consumer». Journalism Studies, 13 (5-6): 815–824.

JOHNSON, L. (2011). «Facebook Forms its Own Political Action Comiteee». The Huffington Post (26/09/2011). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/26/facebook-forms-its-ownpac_n_982053.html

KHORANA, S. (2015). «Is Facebook a proto-state?». Columbia Journalism Review (20/11/2015). http://www.cjr.org/analysis/facebook_as_state.php

MCCOMBS, M. (2006). Estableciendo la agenda. El impacto de los medios en la opinión pública y en el conocimiento. Barcelona: Paidós.

MAZZOLENI, G. (2010). La comunicación política. Madrid: Alianza.

MOSES, L. (2016). «43 percent of social media users don’t know where the stories they read originally appeared». Digiday (13/05/2016). http://digiday.com/publishers/57-percent-readers-aware-brands-theyre-readingsocial/

MOSSERI, A. (2016). «Building a Better News Feed for You». Facebook Newsroom (26/06/2016). http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/06/building-a-better-news-feed-foryou/

NEWMAN, N. (2011). Mainstream media and the distribution of news in the age of social discovery. Oxford: Reuters.

NUNEZ, M. (2016a). «Want to Know What Facebook Really Thinks of Journalists? Here’s What Happened When It Hired Some». Gizmodo (03/05/2016). http://gizmodo.com/want-to-know-what-facebook-really-thinks-ofjournalists-1773916117

— (2016b). «Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News». Gizmodo (09/05/2016). http://gizmodo.com/former-facebook-workers-we-routinely-suppressed-conser-1775461006?rev=1462799465508

PAGE, B. I. (1996). «The Mass Media as Political Actors». Political Science & Politics, 29/1: 20–24.

PAULUSSEN, S.; HARDER, R. A. (2014). «Social media references in newspapers: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as sources in newspaper journalism». Journalism Practice, 8 (5): 542–551. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2014.894327

PELLISER, N.; VILLAR, P.; ENGUIX, S. (2017): «El vídeo electoral: nuevas estrategias y nuevos mensajes en Twitter». VI Congreso Internacional de Investigadores Audiovisuales. Madrid: Universidad Camilo José Cela.

SCHUDSON, M. (2002). «The news media as political institutions». Annual Review of Political Science, 5 (1): 249–269.

SILVERMAN, C.; ALEXANDER, L. (2016). «How Teens In The Balkans Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News». Buzzfeed (4/11/2016). https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/how-macedonia-became-a-globalhub-for-pro-trump-misinfo?utm

SULLIVAN, M. (2016). «Face it, Facebook. You’re in the news business». The Washington Post (10/07/2016). https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/face-it-facebook-youre-in-thenews-business/2016/07/10/cc53cd70-451a-11e6-bc99-7d269f8719b1_story.html

VACCARI, C. (2011). «The News Media as Networked Political Actors». Information, Communication & Society, 14 (7): 981–997. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2011.572984

VILLAR, P. (2015). Análisis del discurso sobre la universidad en prensa durante el período 2010–2013. Valencia: Universitat de València. Tesis doctoral. http://roderic.uv.es/handle/10550/50571

VITAK, J. et al. (2011). «It’s Complicated: Facebook Users’ Political Participation in the 2008 Election». Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14 (3): 107–114.

WONG, J. I. (2016). «The politicians investigating Facebook’s bias are looking for the wrong kind of bias». Quartz (14/05/2016). http://qz.com/684618/the-politicians-investigating-facebooks-bias-are-lookingfor-the-wrong-kind-of-bias/

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM
Copyright (c) 2017 Salvador Enguix Oliver