Skip to main content

How Social Networks and Information Cascades Affect Politics

In a recent article, the ways information cascades affect social media and politics was thoroughly discussed, specifically the effects on our most recent election in 2016. It discusses Facebook, Twitter, and Google testifying during the Senate Intelligence Hearing on fake news, free speech, and Russia. They discuss particular algorithms that influence politics through social media platforms, such as filtering out hate speech or stopping bots.

One of the phenomenas the article discusses the most is the information cascade. The article defines that an information cascade “occurs when people make decisions one after another rather than all at the same time.” People watch the actions of earlier people, who based their actions on earlier people, and they will then make their decision. We learned about information cascades recently in lecture, more specifically a graph of nodes using a type of technology, technology B for example, and we decide what nodes will switch to technology A based on the number of neighbors and the threshold rule.

Although our in-class discussion of information cascades is different than how it is discussed in the article, it is extremely comparable. The article shows how social media allows us to be more connected than ever before, and the structure of the network determines the effectiveness of an information cascade. Specifically, related to our election in 2016, social media platforms like Facebook are a way to give people the ability to share their own thoughts through posts, articles, etc. But, Facebook’s engineers manage News Feed so users see things they have liked in the past for a longer period of time, hindering the ability to frequently discover new ideas. The article uses an example of a voter being a Democrat, where Facebook shows more posts by their friends that support or have similar political views. This means that many people are less likely to change their views and opinions on many current events, like our presidential election. Relating this back to our lecture on information cascades, there would most likely be a really high q value in order to get a person to change from B to A (assuming B is Democratic opinions and A is Republican opinions).

Overall, we can see that social media plays a roll in information cascades, depending on how a particular social media platform develops its algorithms to display information to a particular user.


Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

November 2017
« Oct   Dec »