Examining Opinion Polarization on Social Media Platform Using a Natural Experiment

52 Pages Posted: 17 May 2019

See all articles by Yingda Lu

Yingda Lu

University of Illinois at Chicago

Junjie Wu

Beihang University (BUAA)

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Jian Chen

Tsinghua University - School of Economics and Management

Date Written: December 6, 2018

Abstract

In recent years, there is a heated discussion on opinion polarization on social media platforms. In this paper, we formulate a hierarchical Bayesian learning model to investigate the dynamics of individual opinion formation, particularly opinion polarization, on a social media platform where individuals are exposed to two sources of social influence: preceding peer microblogs in a microblog chain and comments from general public. We leverage a unique natural experiment contained in the data from a leading microblogging website in China on which comment function was shut down for three days. This setting allows us to identify the impact of comments from that of peer microblogs. We find that shutting down comment function reduces the sentiment polarization on the microblogging site. In addition, this effect is more significant for individuals with higher social media participation. Results of this study shed light on how to identify key users and how to conduct successful social media campaigns.

Keywords: opinion polarization, social media, Bayesian learning

JEL Classification: M3

Suggested Citation

Lu, Yingda and Wu, Junjie and Tan, Yong and Chen, Jian, Examining Opinion Polarization on Social Media Platform Using a Natural Experiment (December 6, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3383287 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3383287

Yingda Lu (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1200 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

Junjie Wu

Beihang University (BUAA) ( email )

37 Xue Yuan Road
Beijing 100083
China

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353226
Seattle, WA 98195-3226
United States

Jian Chen

Tsinghua University - School of Economics and Management ( email )

Beijing, 100084
China

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