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Revista Comunicar 69: Participación ciudadana en la esfera digital (Vol. 29 - 2021)

COVID-19 en YouTube: Debates y polarización en la esfera digital

COVID-19 on YouTube: Debates and polarisation in the digital sphere

https://doi.org/10.3916/C69-2021-01

Oscar Luengo

Javier García-Marín

Emiliana de-Blasio

Abstract

Las redes sociales han transformado de forma muy significativa la forma en la que se produce el diálogo político, impulsando una configuración digital de la esfera pública. El presente artículo tiene como objetivo el análisis de la deliberación producida en las redes sociales, con un especial énfasis en la polarización. Tomando como referencia los comentarios observados en YouTube sobre la COVID-19 durante 2020 en España, Italia y Reino Unido, lo cual arroja una muestra de 111.808 comentarios, se aplicaron una serie de técnicas automáticas de análisis basadas en algoritmos, lo que supone una metodología cuantitativa novedosa en este ámbito de estudio. En línea con lo señalado por trabajos previos, la hipótesis que se plantea en este artículo es que el grado de polarización no se da con la misma intensidad en las esferas digitales de distintos casos. De esta manera, cabe esperar unos mayores registros de polarización en la esfera digital de los países del sur de Europa, adscritos a un modelo de pluralismo polarizado, que en países de otros modelos como el liberal. Los resultados confirman la hipótesis, verificando que no solo se observa mayor polarización en España e Italia que en Reino Unido, sino que, a nivel desagregado, los hallazgos apuntan a que la actividad más polarizante obtiene mayor aprobación en los países mediterráneos de nuestra muestra.

Social media has significantly transformed how political discussions and deliberations occur, mainly by providing a digital realm for the public sphere. This study aims to analyse the extent of polarised opinions across Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom regarding COVID-19 during 2020 within social media. To do this, we examined YouTube comments (n=111,808) using automatic analysis and machine-learning techniques based on algorithms. This methodological strategy denoted an innovative and unique quantitative approach for this field of study. In line with previous research, the hypothesis was that the degree of polarization does not crystallize in the same manner in different countries’ digital spheres. Therefore, it could be said that higher levels of polarization occur amongst Southern European countries like Spain and Italy (both countries adhering to a polarised pluralism model), compared to other countries ascribing to the liberal model (the United Kingdom in our study), which provides evidence supporting previous research studies. The results confirmed the hypothesis that the polarization of digital deliberation between Spain and Italy is higher than in the United Kingdom. But, also, the findings based on more disaggregated analysis suggest that the most polarized attitudes are even rewarded by other users in Mediterranean countries.

Keywords

Esfera pública, YouTube, ciberpolítica, aprendizaje profundo, polarización, COVID-19

Public sphere, YouTube, cyberpolitics, deep learning, polarisation, COVID-19

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