10.4185/RLCS-2015-1068en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS # 70 | 2015 | |
Political Communication on Facebook: Russian Сase
Translated by the author Maria Pilgun (HSE Moscow/Russia)
Today the analysis of communication processes in politically active communities in the network environment is of great importance as the virtual sphere becomes more and more significant for achieve of various political aims both in Russia and around the world. The article presents the results of research of sociolinguistics processes in politically active communities of Facebook, which allowed more fully disclose the syncretism and diversity of on-line interaction. Facebook choosing for the analysis of communication interaction of politically active communities in the Russian-language media area is determined by the reason that Facebook is most often used for professional tasks. As Facebook provides a wide range of sociolinguistics resources for communication, information exchange (including photos and videos), participation in communities of interest, and so on. Also very important the fact that this social network focuses on user privacy. According to researchers of Berkman Center of Internet & Society at the Harvard University unlike their counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, Russian bloggers prefer platforms that combine features typical of blogs with features of social network services like Facebook.
The mentioned study was based on an interdisciplinary analysis, which allowed discover the multidimensionality of on-line interaction.
Object of the presented research: classification of actors in political groups in the Russian-speaking segment of Facebook and sociolinguistics analysis of their communicative and speech behavior.
Popularity rating of Russian resources varies depending on the source, implemented monitoring and analysis. Thus, according to data of the Public Opinion Foundation the situation in June 2014 presented as follows:
According to the data of TNS Web Index in November 2014the most popular social network in Russia had the following indicators of the size of the monthly audience, i.e. the number of people visited site at least 1 time per month and the number of active authors - people who left at least 1 public posts in a month:
(According to the materials: social network in Russia. Winter 2014-2015. Numbers and trends.
It is appropriate to note that the popularity rating of the various topics for Runet users according to Russian-language version of Wikipedia is headed by an article devoted to VKontakte (20 500 views on average per day), further - article about Odnoklassniki (14 537 views)
So, varied presented data shows the difficult situation and the presence of opposing trends in the development of social networks in the modern Russian-speaking area. The data were collected into a complicated political period. At the same time there were violent events in Ukraine, which is considerably enlivened the activity of the Russian opposition and correspondingly, stimulated manipulative processes in the Russian social networks.
The analysis of this phenomenon deserves a separate analysis in a special research.
Various aspects of of network interaction is devoted a huge number of research. Recently interest of various scientists aims to study the dynamics of communication processes in the network environment, the ratio of on-line and off-line interactions, the influence of social networks on the real life of users. Thus, according to the material of the English-language sector of Facebook can refer to the research Miller (2013), dedicated to the analysis of Facebook severe effect on the real life of users. Latently semantic analysis of psychological features of 304 actors of Facebook was conducted by Garcia, Sikström (2014), the formation of impressions of the Facebook profile was explored by Hall, Pennington and Lueders (2014). Analysis of the Internet influence on political activity of the Dutch is devoted work of Kruikemeier, Noort, Vliegenthart and Vreese (2014), (see. Also Tufekci and Wilson 2012, Ledbetter and Mazer 2014 and many others). This classification is different from the classification shown in Livingstone, S .; Bober, M. and Helsper, E. (2004), which, in particular, can be explained by the specificity of the Russian society.
As part of the sociolinguistic tradition of study this topic formed two opposing concepts about the use of social networks for political purposes. In accordance with the first conception - the new Internet technologies are changing the traditional communication and positive impact on the involvement of citizens in the political processes and their changes (Stromer–Galley, 2000. 113; Foot and Schneider, 2006; Vaccari, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c; Pepe and di Gennaro, 2009; and all) Supporters of the second opposite point of view prove with various materials that the use of social networks does not affect the efficiency and quality of political communication (Margolis et al., 2003; Gibson, 2004; Druckman et al., 2007; Martin J. Kifer, and Michael Parkin, 2007; Larsson, 2011; Gibson et al., 2008; Zittel, 2009; Kalnes, 2009 and all).
As part of presented research the authors based on the first conception. Social network - is a tool that changes the communicative nature of the interaction between the people at the same time opens up space for unprecedented manipulations.
The interdisciplinary approach is the most common in modern research devoted to the analysis of the web environment (See, for example, Fuchs 2014, Lipschultz 2014, Verboord 2014, Sauter 2014 and other). An interdisciplinary approach was chosen because this research was necessary to identify in the Russian-speaking sector of Facebook the actors distribution into clusters in accordance with the political opinions, to analyze the nature of the communicative interaction between them, define the level of proficiency of sociolinguistic resources by specific actors.
2. Objectives and hypotheses
As mentioned before, the object of the presented research: classification of actors in political groups in the Russian-speaking segment of Facebook and sociolinguistics analysis of their communicative and speech behavior.
As mentioned before, the interdisciplinary analysis shows the syncretism and multidimensionality of on-line interaction.
Grain clustering method in the Russian segment of Facebook allowed to extract three clusters of interconnected communities, each of which represents one of the widespread political attitudes in the Russia. The first cluster represented the communities supporting official government structures ("officially-state"). The second cluster reflected a nationalistic attitudes. The third cluster showed the community belonging to the oppositional movement.
Further, across all communities from all three clusters, was conducted additional analysis and found the most active users. Out of 100 of the latest posts in each group were identified 291 active users. Then was performed the classification of users according to the degree of involvement in community activities and the activity of writing by them posts.
After these procedures were performed sociolinguistics research of differential and integral features of each communicative type both formal and in communicative characteristics. We carried out analysis of communicative behavior (Courtright 2014), and a multimedia linguostylistic rhetorical analysis of web content (Handa 2014).
For the analysis were chosen 240 groups by an expert selection. The database was highlighted as a result of judgemental sampling of a certain political orientation. We took the largest groups by number in the Russian segment of Facebook, which existed at that time - from 15 000 to 1500 participants - in three political orientation: pro-government, oppositional and nationalistic.
Then, among the selected groups was identified and graded descending actors by the two types of activity: the involvement rate in the political groups (the number of groups where actor participates) and the activity of writing posts. From graded for statistical analysis actors were selected the top 300 actors. In order to select the actors according to two criteria was written the procedure using the MatLab. Analysis and categorization of emotionality in the texts were not implemented.
Then there were selected authors who wrote in each of these groups last 100 posts. There were 290 of such actors. Then, the authors were grouped according to their activity and the number of participation groups. Each user was included in several groups. His personal micro-network was combined with the others, and created the macro-structure of inter-linkages between groups. So connections between the groups can be represented as actors as a members of both groups. Further for the analysis and classification of communication strategies were considered last 100 posts of group and 20 representatives of each typological group.
The classification of users the network behavior is especially difficult for modern analysts. Usually they choose between the two indicators of the actor activity: its participation in the group, or the number of posts. Reasons of the most active actors extracting («groups coverage» vs. «flood») do not contradict, but rather complement each other. Crossing of these parameters allowed to build a typology of network behavior.
At the end of interdisciplinary analysis was conducted a qualitative analysis of sociolinguistic interaction of actors as follows:
The data updated in January - May, 2014 were collected into a complicated political period (violent events in Ukraine), which is considerably stimulated the activity of the Russian opposition and manipulative processes in the Russian social networks. As material for research was served a database:
1. During research we performed clustering of politically active groups that exist in the Russian segment of Facebook and extracted state-official, the oppositional and nationalistic clusters.
The research shows that specific communications in virtual political communities on Facebook form a peculiar virtual identities with a clearly deterministic distribution of functions:
2. Substantial (sociolinguistic) analyzes showed that we are dealing with deliberate distribution of roles and behavior of actors in the political groups in social networks. The activity in social networks is described by 4 types of actors behavior: communication designers, spin doctors, graphomaniacs and locally clustered authors (Tables 2, 3, 4).
3. Analysis of the sociolinguistic behavior identified fundamental differences between actors of the officially-state, oppositional and nationalistic clusters. The formal cluster analysis and expert analysis of sociolinguistic behavior of actors allowed to extract four groups depending on the type of network activity, which may be conditionally designated as communication designers, spin doctors, graphomaniacs and locally clustered actors. Representatives of all these four types of sociolinguistic behavior may include into officially-state, oppositional and nationalistic clusters.
3.1. The research results led to the conclusion that a group of actors, which is characterized by the most professional communicative behavior - "communication designers" is also highlighted by the type of network activity.
Communication designers have a high degree of network activity (they involve in a large number of groups, leave a large number of posts). Actors that are related to this type are well prepared to communicative digital - interaction. They have and skillfully use the varied register of speech, communicative and integrated means. They can actively participate in the various semantic and thematic fields. They skillfully use the means of different language levels (phonetic, morphological, syntactical), as well as the stylistic potential of functional styles for effective problem solving, achieving goals of different sociolinguistic situations, accurately perceive a specific communicative situation and choose the adequate means for manipulation on the listener. Usually, they specialize in a specified audience, skillfully use its strengths and weaknesses.
Depending on the problem they can use any strategies: ritual, persuade, imperative, provocative, mostly use tactics of indirect linguistic manipulation. Posts, comments, links, likes complement sociolinguistic picture by necessary colors. This type of actors is the most professional creators of content who own a wide range of tools, modern technologies of manipulation, attract and retain the attention of the audience and, most importantly, the methods of formation and management of public opinion in the media. Naturally, that is the most smallest group - only 14.1% of the total number of politically active actors (Table 1, 3).
Examples of the verbal content:
3.1.1.The provocative strategy, tactics, indirect manipulation (an allusion, projection effect, proper nouns in evaluativeappellative meaning with a pejorative tone, the use of epithets, resources of artistic and fictional style):
Holmes, it's terrible, to destroy the world ... it is very bad, but all of these Poroshenko, Putin and Obama have more terrible plan, what is it, how do you think? Watson, this is elementary: they need to happen involution. To make man a monkey again. And they do it pretty well (facebook.com/100003808234570, April 1, 2014).
3.1.2. Imperative strategy, tactics of indirect manipulation (precedent text, gradation, projection effect, resources of artistic and fictional style):
Balkan deja vu
There is nothing new in the sublunary world. The present Crimean gamble on basic criteria as two peas copies century-old story, that happened on the Balkan Peninsula between the two once fraternal Orthodox peoples. Such a number of direct projection of meanings, historical analogies, common state of mind creates a collective sense of deja vu. In this case, we have a great opportunity to look into the historical sources and find out what will happen next. (…)
3.1.3. Imperative strategy, tactics of direct and indirect manipulation (analogy, resources combining of various functional styles, pejorative nomination):
Beating by the whole crowd of unarmed nationalists in Kharkov (after their captivity by
3.2. Middle position by the number of participants and distribution (20.3%) occupy the so-called spin doctors. The semantic and thematic fields of this actors usually limited by the area of their professional political interests. Representatives of this type are characterized by an middle degree of network activity (they involve in a large number of groups, leave a relatively few of posts). Manipulators have quite varied register of speech, communicative and integrated means, actively use orthographical and graphical means, expressive speech means, conversation vocabulary, colloquial and taboo language.
They can use different types of strategies: ritual, persuade, imperative, provocative, however, with prevailing: imperative, provocative. They often try to use implicit means of expression of intention, evaluation, opinion, but can resort to explicit means. They actively use as indirect and direct means of manipulation. Using the posts, comments, links, likes is sufficiently express the nature of the direct manipulation. Sociolinguistic resources which are used by spin doctors in most cases focused on the emotional manipulation on the recipient. Management of emotional activity of the person, direction it in a certain way becomes a major problem. Flash of evaluation in the content created by spin doctors is metaphorization which functions of manipulation, phraseological units. It is well known that all the phraseological units (with the exception of terminological and nominative) are frozen vivid metaphor, the meaning of which is usually complicated by additional stylistic and emotional tones.
They have level of knowledge of professional technologies of manipulation an one order less than the first group, even though they don't realize it. It is obvious that the various manipulative mechanisms are used in this type both for personal purposes and for business purposes, according to the duties (Table 1.2).
3.2.1. The provocative strategy, rhetorical question:
3.2.2. The provocative strategy, tactics of indirect manipulation (ersatz–
information, forming of causal relationships, the use of quotation marks for evaluativity expression):
In Kiev, arrested Ukrainian anti-government protesters, "Afghan War veterans", at the age of 36, 33 and 30 years old. According to the police, they beaten and tied up with tape some citizen, dragged him under the bridge to the Dnieper. But team-mates of this "Afghan War veterans" claim that they just caught on the Independence Square the regular thief-"thug for hire".
I only note that two of this veterans finished the war in Afghanistan in the early grades of school, and one - right at the kindergarten, because at the time of the withdrawal of Soviet troops he was 5 years old.
3.2.3. Imperative strategy:
History has shown many times, that the paradise which revolutionaries promises is a lost paradise. For real, innate revolutionaries, revolution is a struggle for power. But everything else - just a means to the goal. And nobody hates each other stronger than this complex demons, struggling for power or visibility of power. After all, Lenin was engaged in factional struggles more than the struggle against the czarist regime. So these devils squealed on each other in the secret police. And vying with each other cooperated with foreign intelligence services. - Maksim banged the table with fist. - So, the Bible said that their boss - the devil - always climbing to power. Grigoriy Klimov. (facebook.com/100005186233616,February 19, 2014).
This type of actors prefers mostly explicit means of expression of the intention, evaluation, opinion. The rare cases of the use of implicit means of expression and indirect means of manipulation are not always adequate, so do not always achieve the goal. Graphomaniacs differ quite chaotic participation within a large number of different semantic and thematic fields. Representatives of this group are actively using visual materials, at least - integrated resources (Table 1, 2, 3).
Examples of the verbal content:
3.3.1. Ritual strategy, explicit means of expression, direct tactics of manipulation:
The history of science is subjective, especially in recent times, we clearly see how is possible to rewrite history. In Ukraine, fascism was raised to the rank of heroism but true heroes anathematized. Now it is clear to whom and for what purpose is beneficial defamation of history. It is important to clear the history of personal grievances, ambitions, greed and other subjectivity. This article fully meets with this goal. Thank you. (https://www.facebook.com/galina.nekrasova, April 22, 2014 г.).
3.3.2. Ritual strategy, explicit means of expression, sarcasm:
3.3.3. Ritual strategy, explicit means of expression, direct tactics of manipulation:
The high level office: There is "informal" distribution of the contracts according to reconstruction of the Crimea in progress.
The official: "- Well, have we agreed Ivanovich?"
3.4. The research showed that the majority of politically active actors in the Russian segment of the Facebook - is locally clustered authors (45.4%), who have a low level of network activity and participate in a small number of groups (usually located in the same cluster) leave relatively few posts. Contrast of this type of actors is commitment to a specific semantic and thematic field in which proceeds a communicative interaction. They can actively participate in the various semantic and thematic fields. Speech portrait of this type of actors does not have a variety, a register of speech, communication and integrated means of expression is extremely limited. They use mainly ritual strategies explicit expression of intention, evaluation, opinion and direct means of manipulation.
Representatives of this type actively use visual and integrated content that prefer to verbal. They as much as possible use content of someone else's . Most of this group constitute the actors who solve their narrow professional tasks in the network and attract participants for their projects. (Table 1.3). (Table 1.3).
Examples of the verbal content;
3.4.1. Ritual strategy, direct means of influence
3.4.2. Ritual strategy, direct means of influence
3..4.3. Ritual strategy, direct means of manipulation:
A result of research have been revealed differences in the sociolinguistic behavior of the actors according to their political preferences, that is, referring to the officially-state, oppositional or nationalistic.
Actors, who belong to different types of network activity, are strikingly different by their sociolinguistic behavior. Distribution by type of network activity coincides with the professional level of proficiency of communicative resources, formation technologies and management of public opinion in the media area. The highest professionalism in the use of resources is shown in sociolinguistic group of communication designers, the smallest - have locally clustered authors, spin doctors demonstrate middle level, graphomaniacs in this parameter yield to spin doctors, but win against locally clustered authors (Table 2).
Number of communities where involved "designers" and "spin doctors", much more than other users - from 200 to 250 (the rest have 50-80 communities). It was also found that the communication designers most actively write in the oppositional and nationalistic groups and graphomaniacs - in the officially state groups. This situation explains the quality of content in an officially-state, oppositional and nationalistic clusters (Table 4, Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Participation of representatives of the various types of network activity in the groups with different political preferences.
Communication between members of the officially-state, oppositional and nationalistic clusters different with:
Of the three known variants of the dialogue (monological dialogue, dialogical monologue, "open dialogue") between representatives of the officially-state, oppositional and nationalistic clusters rarely observed monological dialogue and dialogical monologue.
Monological dialogue usually used by spin doctors and graphomaniacs to create the illusion of dialogue with opponents. Each participant of communication recognizes only true and decent distribution only his point of view, without taking into account the position of the other side. Communication in this case is carried out with ill-concealed resentment, disrespect of opponents composition, and, naturally, it becomes ineffective. Such monological dialogue becomes an extension of the hegemonic enclosed information policy, becomes an element of the political struggle, and only heat up the conflict.
The dialogical monologue as a more sophisticated form is used by communication designers. Such communicative form is more effective because participants avow the right of opponents to their point of view, and their right to participate in political and social decision-making. However, openness of information policy is also turns out illusory and is just a trick to better achieve their goals. Participants of communication in this case, use the dialogical monologue only to draw your opponent in communication and the creation of conditions for more efficient use of explicit means of expression of intention, evaluation, opinion, tactic of indirect manipulation.
Simulating an "open dialogue" is found only within a single cluster. On the one hand, communicators in this case as fully and openly present their views, but, on the other hand, the corresponding argument does not meet the counterargument, there is no comparison of opinions, as a result of which should be identified and summarized the strengths of both positions, draw aside weak arguments and as a result (compromise, palliative or consensus) cannot reach a unified solution, as the participants of communication share a common vision.
Dialogical discourse of communicative interaction between different clusters of politically active actors (the officially-state, oppositional and nationalistic), regardless of the type of network activity, and the specific use of sociolinguistics resources (communication designers , spin doctors, graphomaniacs, locally clustered actors) can be implemented with the account the following: the recognition of the parity of all parties to a certain position, showing respect to opponent, knowledge of communicators of the axiological paradigm of each other on the emotional states and about methods of their verbal manifestment (associated with the designation of the action, the situation, opinion, attitude, intention, emotion and evaluation of the addresser and the listener); consideration of representations about itself of the addresser and the listener); focusing on the social role and political status of the addresser and the listener. Dialogic interaction can be achieved by changing the sociolinguistics roles of opponents, creating a cooperative dialogue of "consent", adaptation to each other, correspondence (congruence), and sometimes concessions, as well as conflictual dialogue of "disagreement", objections, repulse, confrontation (Formanowskaya 2002). The possibility a dialogical and polylogical communication can only occur in case of refusal of the pejorative attitude to the opponent, clarity orientation to the listener as a specific social and political deterministic personality with its status and roles with a certain system of values.
Obviously, the manifold possibilities of dialogical communications must be effectively used in all areas of modern communication media area, especially in the area of political communication. Only an open and effective dialogue will help to overcome social and political tension, reduce aggression level, lead to revival of confidence between the different groups of actors.
1. During research were confirmed all three hypotheses:
Politically active actors in Facebook are distributed in several clusters in accordance with the political affiliations.
We performed clustering of socially and politically active groups that exist in the Russian segment of Facebook, which allowed to extract officially-state, the oppositional and nationalistic clusters. On the basis of the clustering was performed a network sampling and extracted sub-groups to further identification of differential and integral characteristics inside the clusters and sub-groups. We implemented analysis of communicative behavior (Courtright 2014), and a multimedia linguostylistic rhetorical analysis of web content (Handa 2014).
We determined four groups of factors that characterized by the type of network activity and specificity of using of sociolinguistics resources (communication designers, spin doctors, graphomaniacs, locally clustered actors). The distribution of various sociolinguistics types is different for various political clusters (see. Table 2). Designers spin doctors are more common in the oppositional cluster. "Designers" writes most actively in the oppositional and nationalistic groups, "locally clustered" authors - in the officially-state. (See. Table 2).
Specific communication in virtual political communities on Facebook form a peculiar virtual identities with a clearly deterministic distribution of functions, that finds expression in the sociolinguistics behavior, choosing a sociolinguistics web -tools, speech strategies and tactics, multimedia rhetorical resources.
2. Communicative interaction between different clusters has the nature of conflict.
In this article presented the results of the research of conflict communicative interaction of politically active communities in the Russian segment of Facebook.
Communicative situation of interaction of politically active actors of officially-state, oppositional and nationalistic clusters in the Russian segment of Facebook can be defined as anti-dialogical, conflictual. Participants of communication consider opponents not as a sovereign person with a specific political and axiological paradigm, but as an object of political opposition. They deny the possibility of finding of common basic positions and dialogue. To justify the refusal of constructive communication is created "enemy image", with whom is impossible and unworthy to enter into dialogue and try to find a consensus. In such way pile on the social pressure, increases the degree of public aggression, mutual distrust and hatred.
3. Level of proficiency of sociolinguistics resources does not depend on belonging to certain cluster.
Research has shown that the actors according to political preferences, that is, by referring to the officially-state, oppositional or nationalistic cluster tools are not distinguished with sociolinguistics tool of digital-behavior. It is precisely the type of network activity determines the specific of the sociolinguistics behavior of actor. As communication designers most actively write in oppositional and nationalistic groups and graphomaniacs - in officially-state, so it is this situation explains the quality of the content, manipulation effectiveness and results of communicative confrontation to the web environment.
Analysis of sociolinguistics processes in politically active communities in the network environment is great significance today, as the virtual area is becoming a more meaningful in solving various political problems. It is impact and communication efficiency in the Internet are decisive factors in achieving the goal of political communications. Confirmation of this can be found in many different types of communities (eg, the presidential campaign in the United States, the movement Tea Party in the United States in 2009, the Arab Spring, etc.).
Political and economic instability in Russian society further enforce the importance of influence on public opinion, which is observed in the network. We can assume that the role of communication processes in politically active communities in the Russian segment of the Internet will continue to increase.
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Table 1. Statistical characteristics of the online activity types
Table 2. Distribution of the different actors in different political clusters
Table 3. Statistical characteristics of the communication of actors of different types of the online activity
Table 4. Statistical characteristics of the communication of actors of different types of the online activity, belonging to different clusters
How to cite this article in bibliographies / References
M Pilgun, G Gradoselskaya (2015): “Political Communication on Facebook: Russian Case”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 70, pp. 726 to 749.
Article received on 12 September 2015. Accepted on 31 October. Published on 14 November 2015