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08. Society and Complexity

Society and Complexity

The world of information has radically changed with the advent of the internet.

Social media has revolutionized, in particular, the way we communicate and inform ourselves, becoming the main source of information for most users. Facebook has more than two billion users, who generate more than three million posts per minute, informing themselves and informing without the intermediation of journalists and experts, thus actively participating in the production and dissemination of news and content. Recent studies have shown how user groups are concentrated in echo chambers that formulate and confirm their favorite narrative, systematically countering any contradictory information. In this situation, the effectiveness of fact-checking and debunking is highly questionable; instead, innovative tools are needed that address the problem of fake news using methods based on data analysis and the formulation of specific and dedicated algorithms. The proposing group intends to apply the same criteria of scientific and methodological rigor that led to the introduction of the Economic Fitness methodology to the problem of (dis-) information online, to the study of the diffusion of contents, to the analysis of the formation of echo chambers, and to study of the dynamics that lead users to spiral into echo chambers.

There seems to be a strong co-relationship between topics that polarize public opinion and the spread of false news and trends. Some studies have tried to exploit this peculiarity by monitoring the evolution of the online debate through particular parameters [1].

In this direction, we have also tried to understand how different ways of reporting a news can influence the reactions of users and possibly reduce online polarization. The experiment carried out with some national newspapers addressed the issue of immigration on social media. The results show that it is very difficult to circumvent the mechanisms leading to polarization [2].

These mechanisms of user polarization and consequent closure in the echo chamber seem to be a very important and characteristic trait of online interaction. To this end, we began to explore the role of the various platforms in the dynamics of polarization and a very jagged picture emerges: There seems to be a general tendency to polarization, but each platform, through its algorithms, determines a different reification [3].

  • [1] Vicario, M. D., Quattrociocchi, W., Scala, A., & Zollo, F. (2019). Polarization and fake news: Early warning of potential misinformation targets. ACM Transactions on the Web (TWEB)13(2), 1-22.
  • [2] Schmidt, A. L., Peruzzi, A., Scala, A., Cinelli, M., Pomerantsev, P., Applebaum, A., … & De Cesco, A. F. (2020). Measuring social response to different journalistic techniques on Facebook. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications7(1), 1-7.
  • [3] Cinelli, M., Morales, G. D. F., Galeazzi, A., Quattrociocchi, W., & Starnini, M. (2020). Echo chambers on social media: A comparative analysis. arXiv preprint arXiv:2004.09603.