Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

The Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

This study, which concerns influence in digital spaces, examines how political Facebook groups shape user expression and how political influencers shape the ongoing conversation. The project uses a multi-method approach to better understand the individuals behind anti-Trumpism political Facebook groups and the users whose discussion resides in the digital for political resistance. An original survey provides descriptive data about users, moderators, and administrators of political Facebook groups. The in-depth interviews with a smaller number of cases focused on several of the survey’s topics as well as the challenges American voters face when expressing themselves politically within Facebook because of Facebook’s dynamic community standards. Moreover, I hypothesized that group-enforced rules, user norms, and platform standards and algorithms shape both political expression and partisan identity. The qualitative portion of the study resulted in three emerging thematic schemas, the first of which is understanding the path to becoming a political influencer. The second thematic schema is “voicing partisan identity,” and the third is “shaping political expression.” Additionally, the quantitative findings of the online survey support the predictive power of partisanship strength. Understanding the motivations, experiences, and practices behind group users’ political talk via social media as well as the community standards, rules and norms that control and limit the political expression of Facebook group users are important in understanding how social media shapes and limits content.

Committee Chair

Bauer, Nichole

Available for download on Saturday, May 26, 2029

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