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The Annenberg School of Communication on Sept. 29, 2019. Credit: Zihan Chen

Annenberg School for Communication professor Sandra González-Bailón, along with a number of other researchers, found that Twitter gives greater visibility to conservative news posts than to posts with liberal attitudes.

In an article published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nexus — an open-access scientific journal — González-Bailón and her colleagues from the University of Padua, the Fondazione Bruno Kessler, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that Twitter exposes users to more conservative news than liberal news.

The team analyzed content from nearly 1.3 million tweets posted around the time of protests in 2020 regarding the death of George Floyd. They then compared the tweets with protest data, content reach and audience ideology scores, and news source reliability provided by NewsGuard.

The goal of the research project was to identify the political leanings of news sources on tweet posts regarding the protests. The researchers discovered that most sources had a right-leaning spin and that posts with conservative sources received more engagement than those with liberal sources.

Currently, González-Bailón and her colleagues are investigating whether this trend applies to Facebook and other prominent social media platforms. They also hope to find the reason behind the trend and the consequences of users being exposed more significantly to one side of the political spectrum.

In doing so, her team hopes to gain a greater understanding of the political concept known as dissonance — or ideological asymmetry — and how news presentation promotes the political polarization of certain issues.