The next speaker at ECREA 2012 is Irène Bastard, whose interest is in the use of the Facebook 'like' button to engage with the news. Talking about news can be a democratic expression, or can enhance social interactions; it can be a driver of attention and buzz, activate weak social links, or serve as a 'bubble' filter. I ordinary conversations, there may also be a range of acceptable or unacceptable topics, depending on the social situation.
On Facebook, the 'like' button provides the simplest possible way of engaging with the news; by liking a news article, it is shared with one's friends, who also see the aggregate number of likes which specific shared articles have received. This can be seen as a collaborative filtering process for news stories. But likes can be understood differently in different situations – not all likes mean the same thing.
Irène examined likes for six major media sites in France during the French presidential elections in mid-2012, collecting the likes and comments for each article in selected sections; over the period, likes and comments moved more or less in parallel. They tend to lag behind the publication of articles; spikes in liking can occur even on weekend days when few new news articles are published.
Likes do not necessarily express agreement with the subject of articles, of course – a substantial number of users liked articles about the success of extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round of presidential elections, for example.