Within the IFK sub-project "Political Instrumentalisation of Islam", we have been concerned with public media discourse on the Swiss veiling initiative that follows newspaper articles in the comment section on news websites. More precisely, we were interested in how arguments in news articles and previous user comments affect the argumentative quality of news comments. In this project financed by the FKMB, we were interested in whether and how different online discussion platforms vary in terms of the presence of reasoned arguments. Drawing on previous research, we expected the public discourse on social media, here Facebook, to contain fewer arguments than on news websites. The main reason is that on news websites, moderation by news organisations is more significant, and accordingly, the discussion quality in reasoned arguments is higher. Moreover, posting a comment is much easier on social media without clicking on the news article and navigating the website. However, some studies argue that the absence of anonymity increases the deliberative quality of discussions by providing fewer but more civil and probably more reasoned contributions. The findings from existing research are mixed. Our results, so far, suggest that the mechanisms – the presence of arguments in news articles and preceding comments -are the same for both platforms. However, the level of argumentative quality is significantly higher among comments on news websites (46% with at least one argument) compared to Facebook pages (40%).
2021 – 2022
online discussions, user-generated comments, arguments, online news websites