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Cascades on Facebook

Some questions arise when we start thinking of social networks:

1) How is our exposed affected?
2) How does success spread?
3) Is information predictable?
4) Is it reliable?

Lada Adamic, a data scientist at Facebook, talks about the factors of social networks that affect the spread of information. Using the information from users’ profile pages, Lada found that content skews liberal in aggregate over Facebook, even when the ideology is balanced. Basically, all users on the network share more liberal content. Lada soon discovered that people’s friends aren’t exclusive to their political beliefs and that the distribution of friendships skewed towards their own political learning. Lada was able to break down the user-news interaction into 4 categories:

1. Potential: all of the news that the friends were sharing
2. Exposed: What comes up in the news feed
3. Selected: What was clicked on
4. Endorsed: What is liked and endorsed

It was found that endorsement was the key difference between users of conservative versus liberal ideology, even though conservative users clicked to read liberal news at similar rates to the liberal users. In addition, more users noticed that they became more interested in politics and government only when they were getting news on their feed. There are many ways in which others influence people, and Lada goes to talk about the factors that affect the spread. She found that views were important initially but less over long term, and how many people’s re-shares from the root was initially important but less over time.

With Facebook, you can reach a lot of your friends at once. Lada argues that we tend to trust information that reaches us via our friends. This, in my opinion, allows for a great base for rumors. Rumor spread is an information cascade: when we see our friends following certain news, we tend to become influenced and take on the same opinions as the rest of our network.

Lada also found that different languages have cultural effects in the way people comment on them. They discovered that rumors drop off quickly like the power law because of the language barriers and geographical origns. Social networks play an important role in shaping the information and political news are increasingly being distributed online. Because of this, there has been a greater impact on the interactions and interests in politics.



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