Trust and Manipulation in Social Networks
We investigate the role of manipulation in a model of opinion formation where agents have opinions about some common question of interest. Agents repeatedly communicate with their neighbors in the social network, can exert some effort to manipulate the trust of others, and update their opinions taking weighted averages of neighbors' opinions. The incentives to manipulate are given by the agents' preferences. We show that manipulation can modify the trust structure and lead to a connected society, and thus, make the society reaching a consensus. Manipulation fosters opinion leadership, but the manipulated agent may even gain influence on the long-run opinions. In sufficiently homophilic societies, manipulation accelerates (slows down) convergence if it decreases (increases) homophily. Finally, we investigate the tension between information aggregation and spread of misinformation. We find that if the ability of the manipulating agent is weak and the agents underselling (overselling) their information gain (lose) overall influence, then manipulation reduces misinformation and agents converge jointly to more accurate opinions about some underlying true state.
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