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Social media intensify polarization

Social media intensify polarization

How do filter bubbles on the internet affect opinion formation? Scientists at the University of Hohenheim have now examined the effects of social media on the attitude towards refugees. The result: Facebook & Co. contribute to strengthening existing attitudes.

The phenomenon is well known: On the Internet and especially in social networks, users tend to be shown content that corresponds to their own preferences and attitudes. It is controversial whether and how this filter bubble effect affects the perception of the world and opinion formation. However, it is reasonable to assume that a preselection of content narrowed by algorithms leads to users being confirmed in their worldview - other opinions are less often or no longer perceived. The differences in the perception of certain topics are intensified.

"The more citizens get information about personalized news channels, the more contact they have with one-sided news that reinforce their political opinion and ultimately contribute to the polarization of attitudes," explains Stuttgart-based communication scientist Wolfgang Schweiger, who and his team explain the influence of social media has examined opinion formation based on attitudes towards refugees.

Users over 30, who often use personalized news channels, are more critical of refugees than the national average. It was the other way around for young users: the more they used Facebook & Co, the more positive they perceived refugees. "When asked whether the use of personalized news channels promotes extreme political attitudes, there are astonishingly opposite effects," said Schweiger.

Regarding the level of education, the scientist observed a similar phenomenon: "While the fans of personalized news in the middle of the education are more refugee-critical than the users of conventional news, Germans with a high school diploma behave exactly the other way round: the more they rely on personalized news, the more satisfied they are with it German refugee policy. "


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