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Opinion Dynamics via Search Engines (and other Algorithmic Gatekeepers)

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  • Fabrizio Germano
  • Francesco Sobbrio

Abstract

Ranking algorithms are the information gatekeepers of the Internet era. We develop a stylized model to study the effects of ranking algorithms on opinion dynamics. We consider a search engine using an algorithm that depends on popularity and on personalization. Popularity-based rankings generate an advantage of the fewer effect: fewer websites reporting a given signal attract more traffic overall. This provides a rationale for the diffusion of misinformation, as traffic to websites reporting incorrect information can be large precisely when there are few of them. Finally, we study conditions under which popularity-based rankings and personalized rankings contribute to asymptotic learning.

Suggested Citation

  • Fabrizio Germano & Francesco Sobbrio, 2017. "Opinion Dynamics via Search Engines (and other Algorithmic Gatekeepers)," Working Papers 962, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:962
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ascensión Andina-Díaz & José A. García-Martínez & Antonio Parravano, 2019. "The market for scoops: a dynamic approach," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 175-206, June.
    2. Fabrizio Germano & Vicenç Gómez & Gaël Le Mens, 2019. "The few-get-richer: a surprising consequence of popularity-based rankings," Economics Working Papers 1636, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    search engines; ranking algorithm; search behavior; opinion dynamics; information aggregation; asymptotic learning; misinformation; polarization; website traffic; fake news;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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