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False information and democracy: Influence of fake news in the plebiscite of the Colombian peace agreement of 2016

In modern societies, the risk of politically oriented false information spread through digital media has been arising, endangering democratic processes. Concern over the problem is global. However, little is known regarding fundamental issues about the vulnerabilities of individuals, institutions, and society in general to these kinds of manipulations. 

In 2016 the Colombian government and the guerrilla group FARC-EP signed an agreement to end more than 50 years of civil war. After the final agreement was made, both delegations agreed to a plebiscite for its public endorsement. While the “Yes” (pro peace agreement) campaign used official channels to make propaganda to support the peace agreement, the “No” (against peace agreement) campaign used, among other strategies, digital media to spread fake news against it. Opposite to all opinion polls, the plebiscite failed with 50,2% voting against it, endangering the success of the peace process.

The present doctoral thesis attempts to analyze the influence of false information spread through digital media in the perception of the peace agreement in Colombia, specifically the influence of fake news in the plebiscite of October 2016. The methodology is qualitative, in which content analysis is used to analyze the propaganda of both campaigns, focusing on false information spread through digital media. With this study, the nexus between false information, digital media and democracy through the Colombian plebiscite case will be explored.



Supervisor University of Passau:

Prof. Dr. Oliver Hahn

Professor Oliver Hahn, PhD, is Professor of Journalism and Vice-Dean for Internationalization and Research in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Passau, Germany. He is specialized in international comparative research of journalism, media and communication. He serves as Co-Vice-Chair of the Journalism Research and Education (JRE) section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and as Liaison Officer to the World Journalism Education Council (WJEC).


David Castro Lotero

David Castro Lotero

University of Passau

David Castro Lotero is an editor of the Spanish language focusing on culture and economics. He has been working on his doctorate in communication science since 2019 at the University of Passau. He studied social communication and journalism in Columbia and continued to persue his masters degree in develpoment studies at the University of Passau. He showed special interest in peace consolidation in Latin America and how communication influences the development of communities that are in need of special protection.


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Mandy Fox

Mandy Fox

Koordinatorin BayWISS-Verbundkolleg Kommunikation & Medien

Universität Passau
Philosophische Fakultät
Professur für Journalistik
Centre for Media and Communication
Innstr. 33a
94032 Passau

Telephone: +49 851 5092999