How Automated Writing Systems Affect the Circulation of Political Information Online

Timothy Laquintano, Annette Vee

Abstract


This article argues that fake news is only one instantiation of a shift that literacy studies will need to reckon with to understand how people encounter texts on an everyday basis. It argues that looking at the information ecologies in which fake news circulates reveals a shift to the reliance on computational and automated writing systems to circulate texts and amplify their distribution. The article critically synthesizes existing literature and provides key examples of how algorithms and bots were deployed strategically to pollute the media ecology with fake news in the time immediately preceding the 2016 Presidential election in the United States. The argument ultimately raises a series of questions that literacy studies will need to confront given the influence of computation in contemporary information environments, including asking: how can people engage in responsible discourse in the face of rapidly evolving and exploitable technologies?


Keywords


writing; circulation; fake news; algorithms; computation; authorship; socialbots

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