In the introduction to Contesting the Mainstream: Understanding Alternative News Media, Dr. Lena Frischlich discusses the influence alternative news media has on news diversity and elaborates on some key concepts that are further discussed in the articles published in the special issue. She argues that it becomes more and more important for awareness about normative positions in alternative media research to spread so that their role in society can be better understood. As the issue presents research from Europe, Asia, North and Latin America and the Middle East, the differences in how these radical actors are discussed and studied make clear that it is essential to further think about the normative purpose of alternative media and how it guides our understanding of their role in differently structured societies and political systems.
On Friday, 21 of October, the closing event of the different research projects that have been supported by the Digital Society research program funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia took place in Berlin. Attendees included representatives from politics, science and the media who discussed potentials and weaknesses of democracy in Germany.
Policy advisor Martin Fuchs held the keynote and afterwards, the achievements of the three research groups dealing with digital change in political parties, dark participation on the internet and echochambers, were presented and discussed.
Together with other experts on Artificial Intelligence (AI) like neuroscientist Dr. Christian Klaes or scientist Lukas Brand, Lena Clever spent a week in October with high school students at the Lernferien NRW workshop to explore what an AI is, how it works and how it can affect our daily lives. She gave a presentation on social bots and tried to answer the question of whether or not they are on their way to world dominance.
As in previous events, all participants had great fun during a week packed with talks, debates and fun activities like an escape game.
The chapter is titled “Ethical challenges in terrorism research” and deals with the high risks that not only researchers but also those researched take to contribute to the research process. The authors also take into consideration the various challenges that such an interdisciplinary topic presents: not only political but also security authority interests have an influence on the research and they present the questions that scientists have to answer for themselves in order to take a scientific and ethical standpoint.
In this study, a random-quota survey (N=967) was conducted and validated the claim that people who already have an ideologically biased worldview are particularly likely to use alternative-counter news. They recalled having seen more alternative news than people who do not consume alternative media and counter-news were also found to mediate the relationship between counter-hegemonic attitudes and fake news recall. While not all counter-news is automatically fake news, these publications do attract a specific audience and further “pollute” the information ecosystem.
The full article can be read here.
The Federal Ministry for Education and Research decided to focus on the dialogue between citizens and scientists for this year’s “Year of Science”. Lena Frischlich contributed two pieces: one on why propaganda works so well, and another on democratic resilience and fake news.
The article on propaganda can be found here: https://www.wissenschaftsjahr.de/2022/fragen/antworten/detailansicht/warum-funktioniert-propaganda-so-gut
The article on democratic resilience is accessible via this link: https://www.wissenschaftsjahr.de/2022/aktuelles/detailansicht/es-kann-nicht-darum-gehen-alles-aus-dem-netz-zu-verbannen
Lena Frischlich offered valuable insights in her presentation at the prevention week of the Network for Democracy and Prevention of the Federal Prevention Council of the State of Lower Saxony. Subsequently, she discussed opportunities for prevention in the digital realm with Frank-Michael Laue from Lower Saxony’s Central Office for Fighting Hate Crime Online, Viet Hoang (Amadeu-Antonio-Stiftung), and Björn Kunter (Lovestorm).
The full stream can be accessed here, Lena Frischlich comes in at 3:33h.
Dr. Lena Frischlich explored the prevalence of psychological variables which may serve to motivate normative and non-normative collaborative action. She looked at four German Facebook groups, identifying one as COVID-19-skeptic, the second as far-right, the third as chemtrail conspiracists and the last one as interested in political affairs.
By doing a qualitative content analysis (N=828),a hierarchical cluster analysis and through the examination of popularity cues, Lena Frischlich was able to show that collective action cues were frequent, most posts transported alternative views or absolutist ideologies and more than one third of posts were either mobilizing or wrathful. They entailed multiple collective action cues, including those that are theoretically linked to non-normative action. Furthermore, posts classified as mobilizing and wrathful were more engaging than alternative views and absolutist ideologies. The different groups also behaved differently: the chemtrail and far-right groups disseminated more content with a higher mobilizing potential, and the far-right group in particular was very active in responding to its members.
The full study can be accessed via the following link:
On May 16th 2022, the foundation of the WWU celebrated its 10th anniversary. Prof. Dr. Johannes Wessels emphasized the foundation’s importance in supporting young researchers and cutting-edge research, as well as facilitating a knowledge transfer.
To mark this special occasion, alumni Oliver Welke (journalist and TV host) returned to discuss the challenges and opportunities participation in media offers. After he and Lena Frischlich talked about hate speech and fake news on the internet, Welke went to the auditorium to answer questions from the roughly 450 students who watched the talk via livestream.
Lena Clever and her colleagues contribute a chapter to the recently published “Counter Speech Digitalized” (“Gegenrede digital – Neue und alte Herausforderungen interkultureller Bildungsarbeit in Zeiten der Digitalisierung”, edited by).
They explain what social bots are and show how they are employed to spread fake news and propaganda. Not only the fundamental structure but also the use of social bots for users, especially in – partly automated – counter speech are discussed.
The chapter can be accessed here.