A study has found that despite the wide availability of information through the world wide web and social media, internet users tend to surround themselves with sources that align with and bolster their personal beliefs, creating an information echo chamber.
"Using a massive quantitative analysis of Facebook, we show that information related to distinctive narratives conspiracy theories and scientific news generates homogeneous and polarised communities having similar information consumption patterns," the researchers said.
The study was conducted by researchers from Boston University, Sapienza University, and the IMT School for Advanced Studies-Lucca, rdmag.com reported. Using data derived from the Facebook Graph application programme interface, the researchers collected information from 67 public pages, 32 about conspiracy theories and 35 about science news.
A second dataset was composed of two troll pages, which intentionally spread "sarcastic false information" around the internet. All the posts and subsequent user interactions between 2010 and 2014 were downloaded and fed into an analysis software.
"Our findings show that users mostly tend to select and share content related to a specific narrative and to ignore the rest," researchers said. "In particular, we show that social homogeneity is the primary driver of content diffusion, and one frequent result is the formation of homogenous, polarised clusters," they added.
According to the researchers, such behaviours can explain circulation of suspicious stories with misinformation on the internet. This increasing trend has also prompted companies like Google and Facebook to look into ways to rank the trustworthiness of stories and content. The study findings were published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.