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Ulrich Matter: Search Engines, Online News, and Political Polarization

Sep 4, 2024, 13:15 - 14:45 (Central European Time CET)

Ulrich is Assistant Professor at the University of St. Gallen, working on topics related to web technologies, data science, quantitative political economics, and online media economics. He is the author of the book "Big Data Analytics: A Guide to Data Science Practitioners Making the Transition to Big Data".

Abstract of the the paper: Algorithmic personalization of information provision has been widely debated, with concerns that it may lead to segregation and political polarization. This study aims to investigate the impact of web search personalization on political polarization, focusing on online news and Google's search engine. We designed two experiments using 300 US-based synthetic web users, or "bots," with a human-like appearance and randomized individual characteristics, who were active for a 12-month period. Our findings reveal that web search personalization indeed intensifies informational segregation between users with liberal and conservative political preferences, as well as between users with varying privacy settings. However, our results suggest that the likelihood of an increased polarization due to personalized search results is nevertheless low.

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