How Does Political Communication in the Internet Age Influence an Election Race? Professor Semetko Explains

 The TIGCR and the Election Study Center (ESC) were pleased to invite Professor Holli A. Semetko of the Department of Politics at Emory University to lecture at Chengchi University on May 28th of this year. The subject of the lecture was “Campaigning and Influence: In the 4th Era,” describing how new internet technology influences an election race through political communication.


At present, the worldwide web is now the primary means of mass communication. Research shows that the internet has surpassed television in as a source of news for the public, and the speed and scope of internet communication has also altered the nature of election campaigns. Professor Semetko has called this the “fourth era” of election campaign studies. Compared to the past, the fourth era of campaign studies has moved beyond traditional two- and three-dimensional media and reached the realm of social networks, big-data analysis, and scrutiny for the effects of fake news on elections, analyzing its sources, distribution and influence.

Professor Semetko explains election campaigns in the fourth era.

(Photo credit: TIGCR)

Through internet communication, this false information finds its way into political discourse, influencing the main media’s selection of correct information. Certain authoritarian regimes such as Russia have also used fake news to influence the environment in which the public accesses information on a global scale. They have used social networks or the algorithms of search engines to manipulate the transfer of false information, playing democracy like a game.

Professor Semetko mentioned that this new state of political communication has made certain theories of social science no longer useful. With respect to public policy, it is essential to establish new norms for election campaigns on the internet. Additionally, Professor Semetko indicates that from the 2016 US elections, it is evident that the public chooses to believe fake news when it agrees with their political views.

Professor Semetko was asked if China’s rapidly developing AI sector presented the potential for the manipulation of fake news. She believed this to be a subject worthy of further research. She was also asked about how to observe the effects of social media on an election campaign. Professor Semetko believes that one could monitor user strategies or indicators such as the number of times information is retweeted or liked. Yet, as social media platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat place time limits on posts, posts disappear after a designated time and might not be as easy to observe. 

TIGCR Associate Director Prof. Chia-hung Tsai asks how to observe the effects of social media on an election campaign.

(Photo credit: TIGCR)

Professor Semetko’s lecture attracted the attendance of many students and teachers concerned with social networks and election campaigns.

(Photo credit: TIGCR)