Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

A minimalistic model of bias, polarization and misinformation in social networks

Sikder, Orowa, Smith, Robert E., Vivo, Pierpaolo and Livan, Giacomo (2020) A minimalistic model of bias, polarization and misinformation in social networks. Scientific Reports, 10 (1). ISSN 2045-2322

[img] Text (s41598-020-62085-w (1)) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB)

Identification Number: 10.1038/s41598-020-62085-w


Online social networks provide users with unprecedented opportunities to engage with diverse opinions. At the same time, they enable confirmation bias on large scales by empowering individuals to self-select narratives they want to be exposed to. A precise understanding of such tradeoffs is still largely missing. We introduce a social learning model where most participants in a network update their beliefs unbiasedly based on new information, while a minority of participants reject information that is incongruent with their preexisting beliefs. This simple mechanism generates permanent opinion polarization and cascade dynamics, and accounts for the aforementioned tradeoff between confirmation bias and social connectivity through analytic results. We investigate the model’s predictions empirically using US county-level data on the impact of Internet access on the formation of beliefs about global warming. We conclude by discussing policy implications of our model, highlighting the downsides of debunking and suggesting alternative strategies to contrast misinformation.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020, The Author(s).
Divisions: Systemic Risk Centre
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2022 14:48
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2024 05:21

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics