Do Search Algorithms Endanger Democracy? An Experimental Investigation of Algorithm Effects on Political Polarization
- Author(s): Cho, J
- Ahmed, S
- Hilbert, M
- Liu, B
- Luu, J
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1080/08838151.2020.1757365
© 2020, © 2020 Broadcast Education Association. This study examines algorithm effects on user opinion, utilizing a real-world recommender algorithm of a highly popular video-sharing platform, YouTube. We experimentally manipulate user search/watch history by our custom programming. A controlled laboratory experiment is then conducted to examine whether exposure to algorithmically recommended content reinforces and polarizes political opinions. Results suggest that political self-reinforcement, as indicated by the political emotion-ideology alignment, and affective polarization are heightened by political videos–selected by the YouTube recommender algorithm–based on participants’ own search preferences. Suggestions for how to reduce algorithm-induced political polarization and implications of algorithmic personalization for democracy are discussed.