Sorting the News: How Ranking by Popularity Polarizes Our Politics
Most Americans receive their political news from social media platforms. These platforms algorithmically determine the order in which news is presented, usually relying on an article’s popularity (i.e. number of likes, shares, and comments) to determine its ranking. To what extent does sorting the news by popularity influence people’s attitudes toward politics and toward each other? With two large, nationally representative samples of adults and a novel experimental design, we find that ranking news articles by their popularity leads to heightened perceptions of media bias and increased reluctance to learn about and express political views on social media. With behavioral measures, we find that sorting by popularity exacerbates the tendency to “like” news confirming one’s viewpoint. Overall, our study holds important implications for how the curation of news on social media can change – and even polarize – our political preferences.
Yotam Shmargad is a computational social scientist with an interest in political networks and privacy. In his research, he runs experiments, links and analyzes large datasets, and uses natural experiments to study how digital media augment the patterns of connectivity between people – the size, density, and diversity of our social networks - and the implications that these bigger networks have for our social and political lives. Shmargad’s recent projects look at how political candidates can overcome financial shortcomings with Twitter, and how the partisan composition of one’s social network influences the information they choose to share online. Before joining the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor, Shmargad received his PhD in Marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He holds an MS in Operations Management from Columbia University and a BS in Mathematics from UCLA.
The Information Science seminar is a weekly talk series and gathering for the Information Science department and its extended community. Any faculty, students, and interested parties regardless of affiliation are welcome. Keep an eye out for future announcements!
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 1:00pm to 2:00pm