Political Discourse on Social Media: Echo Chambers, Gatekeepers, and the Price of Bipartisanship

Kiran Garimella, Gianmarco De Francisci Morales, Aristides Gionis, Michael Mathioudakis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Echo chambers, i.e., situations where one is exposed only to opinions that agree with their own, are an increasing concern for the political discourse in many democratic countries. This paper studies the phenomenon of political echo chambers on social media. We identify the two components in the phenomenon: the opinion that is shared, and the »chamber» (i.e., the social network) that allows the opinion to »echo» (i.e., be re-shared in the network) -- and examine closely at how these two components interact. We define a production and consumption measure for social-media users, which captures the political leaning of the content shared and received by them. By comparing the two, we find that Twitter users are, to a large degree, exposed to political opinions that agree with their own. We also find that users who try to bridge the echo chambers, by sharing content with diverse leaning, have to pay a »price of bipartisanship» in terms of their network centrality and content appreciation. In addition, we study the role of »gatekeepers,» users who consume content with diverse leaning but produce partisan content (with a single-sided leaning), in the formation of echo chambers. Finally, we apply these findings to the task of predicting partisans and gatekeepers from social and content features. While partisan users turn out relatively easy to identify, gatekeepers prove to be more challenging.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference : WWW '18
Number of pages10
Place of PublicationGeneva
PublisherInternational World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee
Publication date10 Apr 2018
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-5639-8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2018
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
EventInternational World Wide Web Conference: WWW ’18 - Lyon, France
Duration: 23 Apr 201727 Apr 2018
Conference number: 28

Fields of Science

  • 113 Computer and information sciences

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