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‘Opinion Dynamics via Search Engines (and other Algorithmic Gatekeepers)’ – Francesco Sobbrio (LUISS Guido Carli)

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NICEP collaborate with CeDEx for the next seminar in our series. Francesco will present ‘Opinion Dynamics via Search Engines (and other Algorithmic Gatekeepers)’.


Ranking algorithms are the information gatekeepers of the Internet era. We develop a stylised model to study the effects of ranking algorithms on opinion dynamics. We consider a search engine that uses an algorithm based on popularity and on personalisation. We find that popularity-based rankings generate an advantage of the fewer effect: fewer websites reporting a given signal attract relatively more traffic overall. This highlights a novel, ranking-driven channel that explains the diffusion of misinformation, as websites reporting incorrect information may attract an amplified amount of traffic precisely because they are few. Furthermore, when individuals provide sufficiently positive feedback to the ranking algorithm, popularity-based rankings tend to aggregate information while personalisation acts in the opposite direction.

Date(s) - 03 Apr 2019
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

A40 Sir Clive Granger Building