Software Power as Soft Power. A Literature Review on Computational Propaganda Effects in Public Opinion and Political Process


Abstract


This article draws on a systematic literature review of recently-published material to investigate the state of the art of research into how social network profiles are being used to manipulate public opinion on political issues. The aim of this review is to discuss how the use of these profiles impacts on constructing consensus, authority, legitimacy and representativeness of politicians, parties, hegemonic and minority groups. In total, 369 articles were obtained following a bibliographic search on four different scientific citation indexing databases. Of those, 16 were considered relevant to the research question. In order to identify general trends and specific results, the pertinent papers were subjected to descriptive and critical analysis. Five main approaches were observed: A) Usage policies and platform neutrality; B) Definition, detection and description of the manipulation agents; C) Political role of agents on social networks; D) Attempted electoral predictions via social networks; and E) Network dynamics and strategies for disseminating information. In the conclusion, the results of the literature review are discussed.

Keywords: Bots; manipulation; politics; public opinion; social media; systematic literature review

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