Disinformation, social media, bots, and astroturfing: the fourth wave of digital democracy


  • Berta Garcí­a-Orosa Universidad de Santiago de Compostela



Palabras clave:

Artificial intelligence, Astroturfing, Automation, Bots, Covid-19, Big data, Democracy, Algorithms, Disinformation, Election campaigns, Political communication, Hoaxes, Fake news


This article reflects on the conceptualization and the salient features of the ecology of e-democracy. The authors identify four distinct waves marked by technological innovations and studied under the control-participation dichotomy. In the first wave, during the 1990s, political actors begin to establish their online presence but without any other notable changes in communication. The second wave takes place from 2004 to 2008 and features the consolidation of social networks and the increasing commodification of audience engagement. The third wave begins to take shape during Obama´s 2008 election campaign, which featured micro-segmentation and the use of big data. The fourth wave, starting in 2016 with the Brexit campaign and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, has been defined by the front and center use of Artificial Intelligence. Some recent phenomena that challenge or buttress the make-up of critical public opinion are the following: a) digital platforms as political actors; b) the marked use of Artificial Intelligence and big data; c) the use of falsehoods as a political strategy, as well as other fake news and deep fake phenomena; d) the combination of hyperlocal and supranational issues; e) technological determinism; f) the search for audience engagement and co-production processes; and g) trends that threaten democracy, to wit, the polarization of opinions, astroturfing, echo chambers and bubble filters. Finally, the authors identify several challenges in research, pedagogy and politics that could strengthen democratic values, and conclude that democracy needs to be reimagined both under new research and political action frameworks, as well as through the creation of a social imaginary on democracy.


Los datos de descargas todavía no están disponibles.


Agre, Philip (2002). "Real-time politics: The Internet and the political process". The information society, v. 18, n. 5, pp. 311-331. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972240290075174

Alallaq, Noora; Al-khiza´ay, Muhmmaad; Han, Xin (2019). "Group topic-author model for efficient discovery of latent social astroturfing groups in tourism domain". Cybersecurity, v. 2, n. 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42400-019-0029-8

Anastasiadou, Maria; Santos, Vitor; Montargil, Filipe (2021). "Which technology to which challenge in democratic governance? An approach using design science research". Transforming government: People, process and policy, ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/TG-03-2020-0045

Auty, Caroline; Nicholas, David (1998). "British political parties and their web pages". Aslib proceedings, v. 50, n. 10, pp. 283-296. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb051507

Baarda, Rachel; Luppicini, Rocci (2014). "Shaping digital democracy in the United States: My.barackobama.com and participatory democracy". In: Evolving issues surrounding technoethics and society in the digital age, pp. 213-231. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-4666-6122-6.ch014

Bai, Xiaoxun; Xiang, Yingxiao; Niu, Wenjia; Liu, Jiqiang; Chen, Tong; Liu, Jingjing; Wu, Tong (2018). "A cross-modal CCA-based astroturfing detection approach". In: Qing, Sihab; Mitchell, Chris; Chen, Liqun; Liu, Dongmei (eds.). Information and communications security, Springer, pp. 582-592.

Bol, Damien; Giani, Marco; Blais, André; Loewen, Peter-John (2021). "The effect of Covid"19 lockdowns on political support: Some good news for democracy?". European journal of political research, v. 60, n. 2, pp. 497-505. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12401

Caro-Castaño, Lucí­a (2016). "Microcelebrities and online astroturfing in Spain. The case of #Pentatrillones". adComunica, v. 11, pp. 121-144. https://doi.org/10.6035/2174-0992.2016.11.8

Castells, Manuel (2021). "Digital politics: a paradigm shift". In: Garcí­a-Orosa, Berta (ed.), Digital political communication strategies. Multidisciplinary reflections. Palgrave.

Chambers, Simone; Gastil, John (2021). "Deliberation, democracy, and the digital landscape". Political studies, v. 69, n. 1, pp. 3-6. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032321719901123

Chen, Tong; Alallaq, Noora Hashim; Niu, Wenjia; Wang, Yingdi; Bai, Xiaoxuan; Liu, Jingjing; Xiang, Yingxiao; Wu, Tong; Liu, Jiqiang (2017). "A hidden astroturfing detection approach base on emotion analysis". In: Li, Gang; Ge, Yong; Zhang, Zili; Jin, Zhi; Blumenstein, Michael (eds.). Knowledge science, engineering and management (KSEM 2017): 10th international conference. Lecture notes in computer science, v. 10412. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-63558-3_5

Cho, Charles H.; Martens, Martin L.; Kim, Hakkyun; Rodrigue, Michelle (2011). "Astroturfing global warming: It isn´t always greener on the other side of the fence". Journal of business ethics, v. 104, n. 4, pp. 571-587. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-0950-6

Dahlberg, Lincoln (2011). "Re-constructing digital democracy: An outline of four "˜positions´". New media & society, v. 13, n. 6, pp. 855-872. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444810389569

Dahlgren, Peter (2018). "Media, Knowledge and trust: The deepening epistemic crisis of democracy". Javnost, v. 25, n. 1-2, pp. 20-27. https://doi.org/10.1080/13183222.2018.1418819

Deseriis, Marco (2021). "Rethinking the digital democratic affordance and its impact on political representation: Toward a new framework". New media & society, v. 23, n. 8, pp. 2452-2473. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820929678

Deseriis, Marco; Vittori, Davide (2019). "Platform politics in Europe: Bridging gaps between digital activism and digital democracy at the close of the long 2010s". International journal of communication, v. 13, pp. 5599-5609.

Entman, Robert; Usher, Nikki (2018). "Framing in a fractured democracy: Impacts of digital technology on ideology, power and cascading network activation". Journal of communication, v. 68, n. 2, pp. 298-308. https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqx019

Firmstone, Julie; Coleman, Stephen (2015). "Public engagement in local government: the voice and influence of citizens in online communicative spaces". Information, communication & society, v. 18, n. 6, pp. 680-695. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2014.986180

Francois, Camille; Barash, Vladimir; Kelly, John (2021). "Measuring coordinated versus spontaneous activity in online social movements". New media & society. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448211041176

Frost, Catherine (2020). "The power of voice: bots, democracy and the problem of political ventriloquism". Journal of political power, v. 13, n. 1, pp. 6-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/2158379X.2019.1701831

Gaber, Ivor; Fisher, Caroline (2021). "Strategic lying": The case of Brexit and the 2019 U.K. election". International journal of press/politics, March 17, pp. 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161221994100

Garcí­a-Orosa, Berta (2017). "Perfil de la audiencia de cibermedios: representación discursiva y praxis del receptor 2.0". Palabra clave, v. 21, n. 1, pp. 111-133. https://doi.org/10.5294/pacla.2018.21.1.6

Garcí­a-Orosa, Berta (ed.) (2021). Digital political communication strategies. Multidisciplinary reflections. Palgrave. In press.

Garcí­a-Orosa, Berta; Gamallo, Pablo; Martí­n-Rodilla, Patricia; Martí­nez-Castaño, Rodrigo (2021). "Hybrid intelligence strategies for identifying, classifying and analyzing political bots". Social sciences, v. 10, n. 10, 357. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10100357

Gorwa, Roberta; Guilbeault, Douglas (2020). "Unpacking the social media bot: A typology to guide research and policy". Policy and internet, v. 12, n. 2, pp. 225-248. https://doi.org/10.1002/poi3.184

Henrie, Kenneth M.; Gilde, Christian (2019). "An examination of the impact of astroturfing on nationalism: A persuasion knowledge perspective". Social sciences, v. 8, n. 2. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci8020038

Hobbs, Mitchell; Della-Bosca, Hanna; Schlosberg, David; Sun, Chao (2020). "Turf wars: Using social media network analysis to examine the suspected astroturfing campaign for the Adani Carmichael coal mine on Twitter". Journal of public affairs, v. 20, n. 2. https://doi.org/10.1002/pa.2057

Jungherr, Andreas; Schroeder, Ralph (2021). "Disinformation and the structural transformations of the public arena: Addressing the actual challenges to democracy". Social media & society, v. 7, n. 1. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305121988928

Keller, Franziska; Schoch, David; Stier, Sebastian; Yang, Jung-Hwan (2020). "Political astroturfing on Twitter: How to coordinate a disinformation campaign". Political communication, v. 37, n. 2, pp. 256-280. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2019.1661888

Kneuer, Marianne (2016). "E-democracy: A new challenge for measuring democracy". International political science review, v. 37, n. 5, pp. 666-678. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512116657677

KuÅ¡en, Ema; Strembeck, Mark (2020). "You talkin´ to me? Exploring human/bot communication patterns during riot events". Information processing & management, v. 57, n. 1, 102126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ipm.2019.102126

Lilleker, Darren; Tenscher, Jens; Å tÄ›tka, Václav (2015). "Towards hypermedia campaigning? Perceptions of new media´s importance for campaigning by party strategists in comparative perspective". Information, communication & society, v. 18, n. 7, pp. 747-765. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2014.993679

Lits, Brieuc (2020). "Detecting astroturf lobbying movements". Communication and the public, v. 5, n. 3-4, pp. 164-177. https://doi.org/10.1177/2057047320969435

Lits, Brieuc (2021). "Exploring astroturf lobbying in the EU: The case of responsible energy citizen coalition". European policy analysis, v. 7, n. 1, pp. 226-239. https://doi.org/10.1002/epa2.1086

López-Garcí­a, Guillermo (2017). "Political communication and discourses on power". El profesional de la informacion, v. 26, n. 4, pp. 573-578. https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2017.jul.01

Mahbub, Syed; Pardede, Eric; Kayes, A. S. M.; Rahayu, Wenny (2019). "Controlling astroturfing on the internet: a survey on detection techniques and research challenges". International journal of web and grid services, v. 15, n. 2, pp. 139-158. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJWGS.2019.099561

Mancini, Paolo (2020). "Comparing media systems and the digital age". International journal of communication, v. 14, pp. 5761-5774. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/14553

Martí­nez-Bascunan, Mariam (2015). "Democracy and social networks: the Twitter example". Revista de estudios polí­ticos, v. 168, pp. 175-198. https://doi.org/10.18042/cepc/rep.168.06

Montal, Tal; Reich, Zvi (2017). "I, robot. You, journalist. Who is the author?". Digital journalism, v. 5, n. 7, pp. 829-849. https://doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2016.1209083

Oostveen, Anne-Marie; Van-den-Besselaar, Peter (2004). "From small scale to large scale user participation". Proceedings of the Eighth Conference on participatory design artful integration: Interweaving media, materials and practices - PDC 04. https://doi.org/10.1145/1011870.1011891

Peng, Jian; Detchon, Sam; Raymond-Choo, Kim-Kwang; Ashman, Helen (2017). "Astroturfing detection in social media: a binary n-gram-based approach". Concurrency and computation-practice& experience, v. 29, n. 17. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpe.4013

Petray, Theresa (2011). "Protest 2.0: online interactions and aboriginal activists". Media, culture & society, v. 33, n. 6, pp. 923-940. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443711411009

Pilet, Jean-Benoit (2021). "Hard times for governing parties: the 2019 federal elections in Belgium". West European politics, v. 44, n. 2, pp. 439-449. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2020.1750834

Ross, Bjí¶rn; Pilz, Laura; Cabrera, Benjamí­n; Brachten, Florian; Neubaum, German; Stieglitz, Stefan (2019). "Are social bots a real threat? An agent-based model of the spiral of silence to analyse the impact of manipulative actors in social networks". European journal of information systems, v. 28, n. 4, pp. 394-412. https://doi.org/10.1080/0960085X.2018.1560920

Sablosky, Jeffrey (2021). "Dangerous organizations: Facebook´s content moderation decisions and ethnic visibility in Myanmar". Media, culture & society, v. 43, n. 6. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443720987751

Steyaert, Jo (2000). "Local governments online and the role of the resident". Social science computer review, v. 18, n. 1, pp. 3-16. https://doi.org/10.1177/089443930001800101

Stokes, Samuel (1999). "Political parties and democracy". Annual review of political science, v. 2, n. 1. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.2.1.243

Torpe, Lars; Nielsen, Jeppe (2004). "Digital communication between local authorities and citizens in Denmark". Local government studies, v. 30, n. 2, pp. 230-244. https://doi.org/10.1080/0300393042000267254

Trappel, Josef; Tomaz, Tales (2021). The media for democracy. Monitor 2021. Nordicom. ISBN: 978 91 88855 41 1 https://doi.org/10.48335/9789188855428

Waddell, Frank (2018). "A robot wrote this?". Digital journalism, v. 6, n. 2, pp. 236-255. https://doi.org/10.1080/21670811.2017.1384319

Webler, Thomas; Tuler, Setj (2021). "Four decades of public participation in risk decision making". Risk analysis, v. 41, n. 3, pp. 503-518. https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.13250

Wí¶lker, Anja; Powell, Thomas (2021). "Algorithms in the newsroom? News readers´ perceived credibility and selection of automated journalism". Journalism, v. 22, n. 1, pp. 86-103. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884918757072

Zerback, Thomas; Toepfl, Florian; Knoepfle, Maria (2021). "The disconcerting potential of online disinformation: Persuasive effects of astroturfing comments and three strategies for inoculation against them". New media & society, v. 23, n. 5, pp. 1080-1098. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820908530



Cómo citar

Garcí­a-Orosa, B. (2021). Disinformation, social media, bots, and astroturfing: the fourth wave of digital democracy. Profesional De La información, 30(6). https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2021.nov.03