Steinfeld, Nili, and Lev-On, Azi. (Accepted for Publication). A Big-Data Analysis of the Communication patterns of parliament members with the public on Facebook: top-down, non-inclusive and non-egalitarian. Aslib Journal of Information Management.

Purpose – Social media have become the main channel of direct communication between members of parliament and constituents. The study analyzes the content in all Israeli MPs’ Facebook channels throughout an entire term of parliament and asks if the results are consistent with the equalization or the normalization hypotheses. Design/methodology/approach – The study uses automatic analysis to produce a birds-eye-view of the content uploaded to the Facebook pages of all Israeli MPs during a full term of parliament. All 106 MP pages were automatically scraped. Some complementary information was added to each post in the dataset, such as post length (number of words) and whether the page belongs to a member of the opposition or coalition. The total of 441,974 posts was analyzed to compare engagement and publication rates between pages, coalition vs opposition MPs, MPs vs users etc. Findings – The findings demonstrate that the MP-Facebook sphere is non-egalitarian, in that it follows skewed distributions by MPs in terms of post publication and engagement rates; non-inclusive, in that pages of coalition members receive significantly much more engagement vis-a-vis pages of members of the oppositions; and “top-down”, in that MP-authored posts receive dramatically more engagement then user-authored posts, suggesting MPs have a near-monopoly on setting the agendas manifest in their pages, while users have extremely limited agenda-setting capabilities in these pages. Originality/value – Previous studies have looked at the character of the interactions between MPs and constituents on the Internet and particularly on online social media. Yet, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, no study provides a birds-eye-view of the content in all MPs’ Facebook channels throughout a full term of parliament. Such an analysis provides a more comprehensive understanding of the character and dynamics of conversations that take place in such arenas.


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