Logic Lounge with Fabiana Zollo: “Social Dynamics in the Post-Truth Society”

Social Dynamics in the Post-Truth Society: How the Confirmation Bias is Changing the Public Discourse

DATE:Thursday, July 27, 2017
VENUE:Stadthalle Heidelberg (http://www.heidelberg-kongresshaus.de/)


Information, rumors, and debates may shape the perception of reality and heavily impact public opinion. The way in which individuals influence each other is one of the foundational challenges in several disciplines such as sociology, social psychology, and economics. In particular, on online social networks users tend to select information that is coherent to their system of beliefs and to form polarized groups of like-minded people – i.e, echo chambers – where they reinforce and polarize their pre-existing opinions. Such a context exacerbates misinformation, which has traditionally represented a political, social, and economic risk. Indeed, since 2013 the World Economic Forum has been listing massive digital misinformation at the core of other geopolitica risks, such as terrorism or cyber attacks. In this talk we explore how we can understand social dynamics by analyzing massive data on online social media. We provide the empirical existence of echo chambers, showing that confirmation bias is the main driver behind content consumption. Moreover, we address the emotional dynamics inside and between different narratives, and investigate users’ response to both confirmatory and contrasting information. Moving beyond misinformation, we show that similar patterns may be observed around both the Brexit – the British referendum to leave the European Union – and the Italian Constitutional Referendum debates, where we observe the spontaneous emergence of well-segregated and polarized groups of users around news sources. Finally, we characterize the anatomy of news consumption on a global scale. By means of a tight, quantitative analysis on 376 millions users and 920 news outlets, we show the natural tendency of users to focus on a limited set of pages (selective exposure) eliciting a sharp and polarized community structure. Our findings provide interesting insights about the determinants of polarization and the evolution of core narratives on online debating, and highlight the crucial role of data science techniques to understand and map the information space on online social media.  


Fabiana Zollo is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and fellow member of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science (CSSLab) coordinated by Walter Quattrociocchi at IMT Lucca, Italy. She comes from a background in Computer Science and received her PhD in Computer, Decision and Systems Science from IMT Lucca in November 2016.

Her research is based on a interdisciplinary, cross-methodological approach and focuses on information and misinformation spreading, social dynamics, and the evolution of collective narratives on online social media.


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