DP16167 Reading Twitter in the Newsroom: How Social Media Affects Traditional-Media Reporting of Conflicts

Author(s): Sophie Hatte, Etienne Madinier, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
Publication Date: May 2021
Date Revised: May 2021
Keyword(s): Conflicts, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, social media, traditional media, Twitter
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16167

Social media changes traditional-media news on conflicts. Online posts by citizen journalists-first-hand witnesses of conflict events-change the extent, tonality, and content of traditional-media reporting of conflicts. Using an exogenous and excludable variation in social-media posts in Israel and Palestine, driven by internet outages as a result of lightning strikes and technical failures, we show that, when social media in the conflict zone is not muted by internet outages, conflict news stories on US TV are more numerous and longer. Text analyses reveal that these stories have higher emotional intensity and focus more on the suffering of civilians and less on the role of US foreign policy or elections. The results suggest that social-media-driven democratization of the conflict news, i.e., the shift of focus from information provided by war gatekeepers to information from ordinary people, helps the narrative on the side of the conflict that has more civilian casualties.