Does information matter? Online discourse on the Yemenite children’s affair in Israel after release of archival documents

Roy Peled, Gal Yavetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: This study evaluates how publicly available archival documents shaped online discussions about allegations that thousands of children were kidnapped during the 1950s in Israel, known as the Yemenite children’s affair. It examines if access to historical records leads to more informed and rational public discourse, especially on social media. Design/methodology/approach: Using content analysis, this study examines Facebook posts from media outlets, politicians, NGOs and public groups between 2016 and 2021 to understand how the Israeli State Archives’ release of over 300,000 documents affected support of the kidnapping. Findings: Despite extensive archival information debunking the kidnapping theory, public opinion and discourse largely continued to support it. This suggests a complex interaction between information availability, preexisting beliefs, echo chambers and group allegiances, suggesting that access to factual data alone may not effectively challenge established beliefs in online public settings. Research limitations/implications: Since data were collected only from Facebook, our conclusions cannot be generalized to other platforms. The study relies only on publicly accessible data and does not establish causality between exposure to information and shifts in opinion. Our findings show that disclosing archival information does not significantly benefit public political discourse on contentious topics but also point to the advantages of mediating information by politicians, NGOs and journalists. Originality/value: As a unique case study, this research contributes to understanding the role of historical archives in digital-age public discourse. It highlights their potential and limitations in facilitating informed debate and deliberation, emphasizing the complexity of influencing established beliefs with factual data.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Documentation
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Keywords

  • Archives
  • Digital communications
  • Documentation
  • History
  • Information theory
  • Public sector organizations

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