Polarization on Social Media
Which topics spark the most heated debates on social media? How do social media users interact when they disagree? Can we nudge them towards constructive disagreement? Answering these questions helps us understand large-scale societal mechanisms — including phenomena such as partisan sharing, echo chambers, and filter bubbles, which might be detrimental to the democratic process. It also allows us to develop tools and techniques that can be used by journalists to understand which issues divide the public; social scientists to understand how polarization is manifested in social interactions; and Web users to improve their experience online.
This tutorial presents a systematic review of polarization as manifested online, and in particular on social media. In the first part, we clarify the concept of polarization and the related nomenclature, drawing from the social and political sciences. Subsequently, we review algorithmic techniques for detection, quantification, and mitigation of polarization. We conclude the tutorial by presenting open challenges and promising research directions for Web Scientists.