Will the Personalization of Online Social Networks Foster Opinion Polarization?

36 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2015

See all articles by Michael Maes

Michael Maes

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Lukas Bischofberger

ETH Zürich

Date Written: January 21, 2015


Pundits and scholars warned that the personalization of the web and in particular of online social networks fosters interaction between likeminded users and amplifies the polarization of political opinions. We criticize, however, that this warning is based on one particular polarization model and that an alternative and equally prominent theory implies the exact opposite effect, predicting that personalization fosters consensus rather than polarization. We develop a general modeling framework to compare the predictions of the competing models. Using agent-based modeling, we formally demonstrate that the two theories make contradicting predictions and study the conditions of polarization. In conclusion, we call for empirical research on the competing assumptions of the two models, discussing major roadblocks and novel methods to overcome them.

Keywords: opinion polarization, personalization, online social networks, social influence, agent-based modeling

Suggested Citation

Maes, Michael and Bischofberger, Lukas, Will the Personalization of Online Social Networks Foster Opinion Polarization? (January 21, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2553436 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2553436

Michael Maes (Contact Author)

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology ( email )

Kaiserstraße 12
Karlsruhe, Baden Württemberg 76131

Lukas Bischofberger

ETH Zürich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
Zürich, 8092

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