Conflicting views on social media balanced by an algorithm

December 05, 2017

Social media has become an important news source for a majority of adults. A common complaint is that social media help create echo chambers in which people reading information do not expose themselves to different viewpoints but are often confined to their own. This happens especially with controversial and polarising topics where two viewpoints become so isolated and conflicting viewpoints can emerge that people do not receive or read information that will not reinforce their own opinion.

Researchers from Aalto University and University of Rome Tor Vergata have designed an algorithm that is able to balance the information exposure so that social media users can be exposed to information from both sides of the discussion.

The algorithm uses a greedy algorithm paradigm that aims to find optimal choices at each stage. In this study the algorithm works by efficiently selecting a set of influential users, who can be convinced to spread information about their side to the other side. The goal is to maximize the amount of users exposed to both viewpoints.

Escaping the echo chambers with the help of influential users

"We use word clouds as a qualitative case study to complement our quantitative results, whereby words in the cloud represent the words found in the users' profiles. For instance, if we look at the topics related to the hashtag #russiagate, we can see not only that the two word clouds that represent the conflicting viewpoints are rather different, but also that they indicate either support or hate for Trump", describes Aalto University researcher Kiran Garimella.

Similarly, a topic like fracking has two circles of users talking among themselves, strengthening their conflicting campaigns.

"We see in our data that the network is fragmented into two sides, one set of users supporting fracking and using terms such as 'oil', 'energy', and 'gas', and another set of users opposing fracking and using terms such as 'environmental', 'green', and 'energy'. There is small overlap in the keywords used by each side, indicading that users are in an echo chamber", Professor Aristides Gionis adds.

The algorithm helps to identify a small number of influential users who are exposed to both campaigns and have a more balanced viewpoint. "Examining the content of those users we see that it uses terms from both sides of the discussion. Thus, these users can play a significant role in initiating a social debate and help spreading the arguments of one side to the other," Garimella concludes.
-end-
Kiran Garimella, Aristides Gionis and Nikolaj Tatti from Aalto University and Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) carried out the study along with Nikos Parotsidis from University of Rome Tor Vergata.

Further information:

Kiran Garimella
Researcher
Aalto University
kiran.garimella@aalto.fi
Tel. 358-50-430-4933

Aristides Gionis
Professor
Aalto University
aristides.gionis@aalto.fi
Tel. 358-50-430-1651

Article: Balancing information exposure in social networks http://papers.nips.cc/paper/7052-balancing-information-exposure-in-social-networks

Picture: Fracking has two circles of users talking among themselves, strengthening their conflicting campaigns. The third word cloud represents the words used by the selected influential users. Picture: Kiran Garimella, Aalto University.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0Gb70-NIKw

Conference: https://nips.cc/Conferences/2017/Schedule?showEvent=9243

Aalto University

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.