Join us on Tuesday, February 1st from 12 PM - 1 PM PT for Algorithmic Newsfeeds and Elections featuring one of our postdoctoral scholars, Alessandro Vecchiato. This weekly seminar series is jointly organized by the Cyber Policy Center’s Program on Democracy and the Internet and the Hewlett Foundation’s Cyber Initiative.
While personalization algorithms are ubiquitous online, their impact on public opinion and voting behavior is still largely unknown. This talk looks at this question by presenting results from a globally replicable, lab-in-the-field experiment with a custom-developed news app. We evaluate the impact of personalized news feed on news consumption, public opinion, turnout, and voting behavior. The results show that personalization significantly skews the news consumption of politically extreme users while allowing most other users to maintain a moderate news diet. However, personalized news feeds are shown to reinforce pre-existing beliefs for all users, including a demobilizing effect for unlikely voters. While our effects are small due to design constraints, our findings call for more transparency and regulation on platforms.
The session is open to the public, but registration is required.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:
is a postdoctoral fellow at the Program on Democracy and the Internet at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from New York University in May 2019. His work looks at internet technologies' role in shaping political beliefs and electoral outcomes. In his dissertation, he uses primarily experimental methods to study how algorithmic personalization in social media news feeds affects the beliefs and preferences of voters. In other work, he investigated how internet-mediated communication through social media has affected politicians' relationships with voters.
Nathaniel Persily is the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, with appointments in the departments of Political Science, Communication, and FSI. Prior to joining Stanford, Professor Persily taught at Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and as a visiting professor at Harvard, NYU, Princeton, the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Melbourne. Professor Persily’s scholarship and legal practice focus on American election law or what is sometimes called the “law of democracy,” which addresses issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance, redistricting, and election administration. He has served as a special master or court-appointed expert to craft congressional or legislative districting plans for Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. He also served as the Senior Research Director for the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. His current work, for which he has been honored as a Guggenheim Fellow, Andrew Carnegie Fellow, and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, examines the impact of changing technology on political communication, campaigns, and election administration. He is codirector of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, Stanford Program on Democracy and the Internet, and the Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project, which supported local election officials in taking the necessary steps during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide safe voting options for the 2020 election. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a commissioner on the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age.