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How Algorithms Affect Political Knowledge, Misinformation, and Public Opinion.

Fri, August 30, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton, Tenleytown West

Abstract

Scholars have focused on selective exposure to information to explain polarization in the American public and have largely ignored the role of algorithms in shaping the information environment within which selective exposure occurs. This is an important omission with methodological and substantive consequences. Existing research suggests that the algorithmic choices made by Google, Facebook and Twitter increase polarization and misinformation, but because these data are observational, there are serious limitations for causal inference. In this paper, I describe the results from a randomized experiment that allow me to identify whether and how algorithms affect selective exposure to information, how they affect political knowledge, misinformation, public opinion, and polarization. Moreover, I examine the effect that positive and negative emotional manipulations by algorithms have on these dependent variables.

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