Desegregating Network Neighborhoods
Political polarization is increasingly recognized as the Internet’s main threat against democratic processes28,29: information theorists have linked the Internet’s decentralized structure to the asymmetric polarization of political groups23; cultural researchers have revealed how polarization facilitates fake news circulation30; and political scientists have shown how it excludes communities from partaking in political dialogues9. Platforms might not deliberately support polarization, but sociologists have shown how homophily (the assumption that people prefer to associate with others who are similar31, as a design principle for networks, heightens political sorting through the creation of online “echo chambers”32,33. As online communities become more homogeneous, the Internet’s impact on them becomes more disparate; platforms amplify gender and racial biases, and exacerbate social and economic inequalities34-38.
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