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Semantic polling: the ethics of online public opinion

Anstead, Nick ORCID: 0000-0002-1090-5271 and O'Loughlin, Ben (2012) Semantic polling: the ethics of online public opinion. LSE Media Policy Project Series, Broughton Micova, Sally, Tambini, Damian and Sujon, Zoetanya (eds.) (Media Policy Brief 5). London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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- As the 2010 UK General Election saw an increased use of social media by politicians, activists, journalists and citizens, a number of consultancy firms began “semantic polling” – the employment of natural language processing technology to “read” and codify vast datasets gathered online, and then the use of this data to illustrate and understand public opinion. - The semantic polling techniques employed are largely experimental and vary widely between firms. There is also very limited methodological transparency. This is problematic as academic research suggests that statements about public opinion made in media can actually drive as well as reflect popular attitudes. - Both those carrying out semantic analysis and those in the media reporting it have a responsibility to offer appropriate explanations about the meaning and limitations of the conclusions, and the methods used in data analysis. They can do this by: increasing media literacy among citizens; increasing data literacy among journalists and editors; developing structures for self-regulation; and developing institutions that ensure a greater level of methodological transparency.

Item Type: Monograph (Report)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Authors
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2012 12:32
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 22:20
Projects: LSE Media Policy Project
Funders: Open Society Institute

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