Social Network

Social networks: an echo chamber for controversial topics

A new Italian study involving the Department of Computer Science of Sapienza University analysed more than 100 million posts published between 2010 and 2018 on different social networks to assess how online content consumption is characterised. The paper, published in the journal PNAS, suggests that information dissemination depends as much on the dynamics of users online as on the social platform's characteristics 
An overabundance of sources and content characterises digital information in the age of social networks. However, data pluralism does not always guarantee that the amount of information with which one can interact remains truly unlimited.
The tendency to acquire content consistent with one's worldview at the expense of conflicting content (confirmation bias) seems to be exacerbated online. The selection of information made by online users leads to the formation of groups around shared information, the so-called echo chambers, the distinctive polarisation of social media.
Today, a new Italian study coordinated by Walter Quattrociocchi of the Department of Computer Science at Sapienza University of Rome with ISI Foundation, Italian Institute for Scientific Interchange, the University of Brescia, and Cà Foscari University of Venice, has analysed more than 100 million posts published between 2010 and 2018 on Facebook, Twitter, Gab and Reddit concerning controversial topics, such as abortion, gun control and vaccinations.
"In particular," says Walter Quattrociocchi, "we observed how, unlike Reddit where users can modify their feed algorithm, the aggregation of users into homogeneous groups, or echo chambers, and the exclusion of opposing content characterise the online news consumption of both Facebook and Twitter, even though they use different algorithms and refer to quite different types of users. Polarisation dynamics among users are also present on Gab. In these groups, too, the tendency is to adhere to conceptions that align with one's own worldview and perception and ignore information that conflicts with the shared opinion."
The study's outcomes show that today, the dissemination of information and different dynamics of polarisation depend as much on the dynamics of online users as on the characteristics of the social platform.


The echo chamber effect on social media - Matteo Cinelli, Gianmarco De Francisci Morales, Alessandro Galeazzi, Walter Quattrociocchi, and Michele Starnini - PNAS 2021


Further Information

Walter Quattrociocchi
Department of Computer Science


Wednesday, 24 February 2021

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