Nav: Home

Your (social media) votes matter

January 24, 2017

When Tim Weninger conducted two large-scale experiments on Reddit - otherwise known as "the front page of the internet" - back in 2014, the goal was to better understand the ripple effects of malicious voting behavior and the impact on what users see and share online.

One could argue the study couldn't be more timely.

Reddit -- so popular it received 234 million unique visitors last September, according to the site -- aggregates user-generated content that is then rated through a voting structure. Users can vote positively (up-vote) or negatively (down-vote) on what they see, which determines the prominence of social posts on Reddit's page. Weninger's results, recently published in the Association for Computer Machinery journal, Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology, provide insight into how a single up/down vote can influence what content users see on the site, which has been known to push viral content into the broader social mediasphere and even mainstream news.

"Most people don't vote on Reddit. But those that do become the content editors - that's essentially what they are - and they're the ones who are responsible for what's trending on the site," said Weninger, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame. "Anyone can vote on social media, so it's relatively easy for handful of bad actors to manipulate the news and opinions and commentary that you see in social media."

For the study Weninger and Maria Glenski, a graduate student in the department of computer science and engineering, spent five months monitoring new posts on Reddit - 93,019 posts in all - and randomly, regardless of content, assigned either an up-vote, down-vote or no vote (as a control) to each post. Posts receiving an up-vote ended up with a significantly higher final score than posts with no vote, and posts assigned a down-vote resulted in a significantly lower score. "Moreover, the posts that we up-voted were 24 percent more likely to reach the front page than those that we did not up-vote," said Weninger.

Content on the site, be it news, photos or video, is completely user-generated, but Reddit differs from other sites such as Facebook or Twitter, as it is not a social network. "You're not seeing what your friends care about," said Weninger. "You're seeing the aggregate opinion of everyone on Reddit." Or, as previously noted, the aggregate opinion of those who actually vote, which Weninger said is a relatively small percentage of Reddit's thousands of users. Votes from the subset of users who choose to vote on what they like or don't like, contribute to the overall score for each post that is calculated by subtracting down-votes from up-votes -- and those scores determine which content makes it to the top of the site's main page and subreddit pages.

"Media is shifting," he said. "We're moving away from a dozen editors at major networks to a million editors at home on their cell phone. It's important to remember that what's trending on social media is derived from only those who vote, and may not represent the opinions of the actual, broader population."

Weninger continues to measure the intersection and impact of human behavior in social media.

"It is critical that we understand the dynamics of how social rating systems curate the media that we all see and hear in our daily lives," he said. "That, to me, is essential. I can't think of anything more important."

University of Notre Dame

Related Social Media Articles:

Can seeing the Facebook logo make you crave social media?
A new study examined how social media cues such as the Facebook logo may affect frequent and less frequent social media users differently, sparking spontaneous hedonic reactions that make it difficult to resist social media cravings.
People could be genetically predisposed to social media use
Chance York (Kent State University) used a behavior genetics framework and twin study data from the 2013 Midlife in the United States survey, York examined how both environmental and genetic factors contribute to social media use by applying an analytical model called Defries-Fulker Regression.
New survey reveals almost 6 in 10 teens take a break from social media
A new survey reveals that 58 percent of American teens report taking significant breaks from social media, and that many of these breaks are voluntary.
Who are you on social media? New research examines norms of online personas
According to the Pew Research center, the majority of adults on the internet have more than one social networking profile on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Social media tools can reinforce stigma and stereotypes
Researchers have developed new software to analyze social media comments, and used this tool in a recent study to better understand attitudes that can cause emotional pain, stigmatize people and reinforce stereotypes.
Floods and hurricanes predicted with social media
Social media can warn us about extreme weather events before they happen -- such as hurricanes, storms and floods - according to new research by the University of Warwick.
Why is some social media content interpreted as bragging?
People who post personal content on social networking sites such as Facebook and try to present themselves in a positive light may be perceived as bragging, and therefore be less attractive to others, according to a new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Your (social media) votes matter
Tim Weninger, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Notre Dame, conducted two large-scale experiments on Reddit and the results provide insight into how a single up/down vote can influence what content users see on the site.
Multi-social millennials more likely depressed than social(media)ly conservative peers
Compared with the total time spent on social media, use of multiple platforms is more strongly associated with depression and anxiety among young adults, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found in a national survey.
Computers can take social media data and make marketing personas
Computers may be able to group consumers into marketing segments in real time just by observing how they respond to online videos and other social media data, according to a team of researchers.

Related Social Media Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...