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Opinion Dynamics via Search Engines (and other Algorithmic Gatekeepers)

Fabrizio Germano () and Francesco Sobbrio ()

No 6541, CESifo Working Paper Series from CESifo

Abstract: Ranking algorithms are the information gatekeepers of the Internet era. We develop a stylized model to study the nterplay between a ranking algorithm and individual clicking behavior. We consider a search engine that uses an algorithm based on popularity and on personalization. The analysis shows the presence of a feedback effect, whereby individuals clicking on websites indirectly provide information about their private signals to successive searchers through the popularity-ranking algorithm. Accordingly, when individuals provide sufficiently positive feedback to the ranking algorithm, popularity-based rankings tend to aggregate information while personalization acts in the opposite direction. Moreover, we find that, under fairly general conditions, popularity-based rankings generate an advantage of the fewer effect: fewer websites reporting a given signal attract relatively more traffic overall. This highlights a novel, ranking-driven channel that can potentially explain the diffusion of misinformation, as websites reporting incorrect information may attract an amplified amount of traffic precisely because they are few.

Keywords: ranking algorithm; information aggregation; asymptotic learning; popularity ranking; personalized ranking; misinformation; fake news (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D83 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ict, nep-mic and nep-pol
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2) Track citations by RSS feed

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Related works:
Journal Article: Opinion dynamics via search engines (and other algorithmic gatekeepers) (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Opinion Dynamics via Search Engines (and other Algorithmic Gatekeepers) (2018) Downloads
Working Paper: Opinion dynamics via search engines (and other algorithmic gatekeepers) (2018) Downloads
Working Paper: Opinion Dynamics via Search Engines (and other Algorithmic Gatekeepers) (2017) Downloads
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