Diversity Without Disagreeability: A Multi-National Examination of Social Networks and Participation in Political Dialog
23 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 25, 2019
It is widely understood that individuals think and act differently depending on the real or perceived political views of their discussion network. At the same time, there is a growing concern that self-selection and algorithmic selection into similarly minded imbalanced social networks are forming political discussion silos and echo chambers, where only one opinion is heard. As such, many are calling for social network providers to develop algorithms that filter messages, not only for veracity, but to provide a balance of viewpoints. While there is a growing consensus that a diversity of viewpoints is necessary for a healthy a democracy, the impact of exposure to opposing points of view on political expression and participation remain unclear (Boulianne, 2015). This study is based on a 2017 web-survey of over 14,000 internet users from 7 countries to examine cross-national variations of the user’s social media political discussion networks and the potential impacts on political participation. Even though participation in agreeable networks is high, as would be expected, we find that social media users who find themselves in the minority in a diverse social media network still participate and engage, especially those with higher online skills. The result of this analysis are discussed in terms of cross-national differences and the potential implications of forcing or filtering differing opinions within a network. These findings can lend insights into policy decisions related to algorithmic filtering and related attempts aimed at increasing exposure to diversity of viewpoints within social networks.
Keywords: online networks, social media, political particiation, diversity, agreeability
JEL Classification: 035, 038
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