Wall Street Journal: Why Social Media Is So Good at Polarizing Us

Wall Street Journal (and not paywalled for me): Why Social Media Is So Good at Polarizing Us. “A growing body of research suggests that social media is accelerating the trend, and many political scientists worry it’s tearing our country apart. It isn’t clear how to solve the problem. And new research suggests that one often-proposed solution—exposing users on the platforms to more content from the other side—might actually be making things worse, because of how social media amplifies extreme opinions.” It was interesting to read this in context with a recent article in Scientific American. I encourage you to read both.

Scientific American: Why Social Media Make Us More Polarized, and How to Fix It

Scientific American: Why Social Media Make Us More Polarized, and How to Fix It. “As a scientist who studies networks, I’m used to being surprised by the results of my experiments. Technology has allowed us to access more information and data about people’s social networks, debunking many of our assumptions about human behavior. But even my team at the Network Dynamics Group was surprised: Why did our social media experiment find the opposite of what happens all the time in the real world of social media? The answer lies in something social media has amplified: ‘influencers.'”

Washington Post: Parler and Gab, two conservative social media sites, keep alleged Russian disinformation up, despite report

Washington Post: Parler and Gab, two conservative social media sites, keep alleged Russian disinformation up, despite report. “A mysterious European named Leo has offered a stream of familiar — and completely false — right-wing talking points on Parler, a social media site favored by conservatives: Mail-in voting amounts to fraud. Left-wing activists somehow infected President Trump with the coronavirus. His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, is a ‘sexual predator.’ What makes Leo’s assertions noteworthy, however, is that last week his account was identified as a key asset in an alleged Russian disinformation campaign that has been purged from three mainstream social media platforms. But two others, Parler and the far-right Gab, continue to host accounts that reportedly are part of the operation…”

Study: Vote-by-mail misinformation is all over YouTube thanks to right-leaning channels (Media Matters)

Media Matters: Study: Vote-by-mail misinformation is all over YouTube thanks to right-leaning channels. “Media Matters identified the top 100 YouTube videos with at least 10,000 views that discuss mail-in voting and were posted within a six-month period from March through August. We analyzed those 100 videos and assessed the political ideology of the channels that posted them, separating these channels into three categories: right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned. We found that among these categories, right-leaning channels posted the most about mail-in voting (39 of the top 100 videos) as of August 31 — accounting for approximately 47% of total views.”

Politico: Why the right wing has a massive advantage on Facebook

Politico: Why the right wing has a massive advantage on Facebook. “Throughout 2020, Democrats have denounced Facebook with growing ferocity as a ‘right wing echo chamber’ with a ‘conservative bias’ that’s giving an edge to Donald Trump in November. But Facebook says there’s a reason why right-wing figures are driving more engagement. It’s not that its algorithm favors conservatives — the company has long maintained that its platform is neutral. Instead, the right is better at connecting with people on a visceral level, the company says.”

Pandemic Politics: Timing State-Level Social Distancing Responses to COVID-19 (Duke University Press)

Duke University Press: Pandemic Politics: Timing State-Level Social Distancing Responses to COVID-19 . “The most important predictor of when states adopted social distancing policies is political: All else equal, states led by Republican governors were slower to implement such policies during a critical window of early COVID-19 response.”

Column: Student probes alleged Google search bias (San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego Union-Tribune: Column: Student probes alleged Google search bias. “When Agastya Sridharan read in The Wall Street Journal last fall about some politicians’ complaints of suspected bias in Google online search results, he was upset and intrigued. Was it possible to re-order search results and, thus, influence voter preferences? Agastya, then a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Scripps Ranch, decided to conduct his own research as his entry in the 2020 Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair.”

Wired: How to Break Out of Your Social Media Echo Chamber

Wired: How to Break Out of Your Social Media Echo Chamber. “It’s a tale of two feeds, because thanks to confirmation bias and powerful proprietary algorithms, social media platforms ensure we only get a single side of every story. Even though most Americans continue to describe themselves as holding balanced views, we still naturally gravitate toward certain content online. Over time, algorithms turn slight preferences into a polarized environment in which only the loudest voices and most extreme opinions on either side can break through the noise.”

Washington Post: Trump blames blue states for the coronavirus death toll — but most recent deaths have been in red states

Washington Post: Trump blames blue states for the coronavirus death toll — but most recent deaths have been in red states. “It is true that the early surge in deaths was heavily weighted toward states that had voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. New York and New Jersey in particular recorded hundreds of deaths a day in April, quickly contributing to the country’s total number of fatalities. Over time, though, the percentage of total deaths that have occurred in blue states has dropped. The most recent data, through Tuesday, indicates that about 53 percent of deaths have occurred in blue states — meaning that 47 percent have occurred in red ones.”

Reuters: Progressive Democrats urge action on tech as potential Google lawsuit looms

Reuters: Progressive Democrats urge action on tech as potential Google lawsuit looms. “With expectations of a U.S. government lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google within weeks, two progressive Democrats tweeted support for legal action against tech giants who break the law, in a rare instance of agreement with the Republican administration amid a polarized political environment.”

Mark Zuckerburg: Facebook algorithm isn’t trying to fuel online rage (CNET)

CNET: Mark Zuckerburg: Facebook algorithm isn’t trying to fuel online rage. “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it’s wrong to suggest the social media platform is designed to enrage people. In an interview with Axios on HBO, Zuckerberg admitted that partisan content on Facebook often gets high engagement — such as likes or comments — but said that doesn’t account for everything people are ‘seeing and reading and learning’ about on Facebook.”

CNN: People who consume conservative media are less likely to wear masks, poll of New Hampshire residents finds

CNN: People who consume conservative media are less likely to wear masks, poll of New Hampshire residents finds. “Researchers found that overall, about three in four residents polled said they always wore a face mask in public, or did so except when they were outside and socially distanced. But when it came to residents who reported frequently watching Fox News or listening to conservative talk radio, those numbers were much lower. Just half of New Hampshire residents who frequently watch Fox News said they wore a mask in public, unless they were outside or socially distanced. A third of residents who frequently listen to conservative talk radio said the same.”

Washington Post: Seven in 10 new coronavirus cases are emerging in red states

Washington Post: Seven in 10 new coronavirus cases are emerging in red states. “When the pandemic was at its high, about three-quarters of new cases were in red states. Now, about 7 in 10 new cases are in red states. It’s still the case, though, that many of those new cases are in blue counties. While more new cases are emerging in states that voted for Trump, those outbreaks were often in places that voted for Clinton.”

MIT Technology Review: Why Facebook’s political-ad ban is taking on the wrong problem

MIT Technology Review: Why Facebook’s political-ad ban is taking on the wrong problem. “The idea of algorithmic manipulation schemes brainwashing large swaths of the US electorate online is a nice way to explain the polarized nature of American public opinion. But experts say it’s actually pretty unlikely that targeted political advertising has had much influence on voter behavior at all.”

New Zealand Herald: How Facebook, Google algorithms feed on hate speech, rage

New Zealand Herald: How Facebook, Google algorithms feed on hate speech, rage. “Notice how those unsavoury posts liked by some long-forgotten friend always seem to float to the top of your curated social media feeds Wonder how an incitement to violence can stay on your screen for days? What about that infuriating conspiracy that keeps getting forced down your throat According to an Australian digital security researcher, it’s no bug. It’s a feature. It’s a subliminal mechanism designed to extract maximum revenue out of your inbox.”