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Homophily and polarization in the age of misinformation

Abstract

The World Economic Forum listed massive digital misinformation as one of the main threats for our society. The spreading of unsubstantiated rumors may have serious consequences on public opinion such as in the case of rumors about Ebola causing disruption to health-care workers. In this work we target Facebook to characterize information consumption patterns of 1.2 M Italian users with respect to verified (science news) and unverified (conspiracy news) contents. Through a thorough quantitative analysis we provide important insights about the anatomy of the system across which misinformation might spread. In particular, we show that users’ engagement on verified (or unverified) content correlates with the number of friends having similar consumption patterns (homophily). Finally, we measure how this social system responded to the injection of 4,709 false information. We find that the frequent (and selective) exposure to specific kind of content (polarization) is a good proxy for the detection of homophile clusters where certain kind of rumors are more likely to spread.

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Correspondence to Walter Quattrociocchi.

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Bessi, A., Petroni, F., Vicario, M. et al. Homophily and polarization in the age of misinformation. Eur. Phys. J. Spec. Top. 225, 2047–2059 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1140/epjst/e2015-50319-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1140/epjst/e2015-50319-0