Negative political posts on social media get more traction than positive ones, study claims

Edited By: Bharat Sharma WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Updated: Jun 23, 2021, 12:21 PM(IST)

Australian government has been examining new legislation to tackle the problem of online trolls Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

A new study sheds light on how our interactions on social media shape viral content

Social media has become the cornucopia of information and the virality which ensues. With different types of memes, articles, and posts going viral every day, the landscape of social media has tremendously changed over the last decade.

Everything has a short shelf-life on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, except trolling. Since early days of social media, the act of “trolling” someone has remain largely intact.

Now, a new study sheds light on how our interactions on social media shape viral content. According to the research undertaken by Cambridge University, social posts are twice as likely to go viral if they depict a negative image of politicians whom people don’t support, as against positive content they may be pushing out in support of a politician. 

Trolling wins social media

The study suggests that negative posts that “troll” someone have a higher chance of getting liked and shared on social media platforms.

Researchers analysed 2.7 million tweets and Facebook posts from various US media houses and politicians over five years. They also found that negative posts were not only more likely to go viral, but also received twice as many comments as positive posts.

On Facebook, posts maligning someone received a higher number of angry or laughing reactions as opposed to positive posts that received hearts or thumbs ups.

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Politics matter

The study’s co-author Steve Rathje told BBC that if the post originated from a Republican and referred to Joe Biden, it was more likely to go viral than posts by Republicans about other politicians. Rathje also claimed that a screenshot of the US president with the caption “latest brain freeze” posted first by Breitbart News had received a lot of hits quickly.

On the other end of this political spectrum, a tweet by Bernie Sanders about Donald Trump also received a lot of hits wherein Sanders referred to “3,000” lies by Donald Trump. 

Algorithms on social media platforms are meant to promote "viral content" and amplify voices that are receiving a lot of attention on platforms. This practice has been criticised for its ability to make hateful and divisive content viral.

The peer-reviewed study was published in the journal called “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

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