June 23, 2022
Room Auditorium 6
Behavior, Institutions, and Development seminar
User-generated online content 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 online posts in Israel and Palestine, driven by internet outages as a result of lightning strikes and technical failures, we show that, when the internet in the conflict zone is not muted by 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. They also cite social media sources more. 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.