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Debiasing Social Media Use through Cognitive Interface Design

LabKnowledge exchange
FundingLeibniz-WissenschaftsCampus „Cognitive Interfaces”
Project description

In this project the origins of radicalization and hate speech in social media were investigated. In particular, we tested the assumption that the language use of tweets becomes more extreme, the more a Twitter account is one-sidedly connected with similar accounts.

Societal discourse about social media has radically changed in recent years: In the early 2010s, the many benefits of social media like Twitter and Facebook were emphasized, for instance, as hotbeds for democratization. In contrast, recent discourse about social media can be characterized by negative effects. One example is the notion of “echo chambers” on social media where like-minded individuals are communicating about a controversial issue, but constantly perpetuate just one out of several possible perspectives or opinions, while ignoring, sanctioning, or derogating alternative viewpoints. Several theories suggest that a one-sided reception and production of information might give rise to very strong and extreme attitudes, thus creating hotbeds for radicalization and even hate speech.
This project started by analyzing actual Twitter accounts which produce content about controversial issues (such as Homeland Security). In a second step we wanted to bring echo chambers into the Lab by simulating conditions that should lead to their emergence and investigating psychological mechanisms. We analyzed in how far rating tools in an interface (e.g., “thumbs up”) may contribute to a radicalization of tweeted content. Moreover, we investigated the role of anonymity. In the third part of the project we used social psychological theories to derive mechanisms of interface design that should lead to a more balanced selection, processing, and production of information on social media (so-called “debiasing”). For instance, alternative visualizations of rating tools could make balanced content more salient.


Prof. Dr. Guido Zurstiege, Tübingen University, Institute of Media Studies


PD Dr. Jürgen Buder PD Dr. Jürgen Buder
Tel.: +49 7071 979-326

Project team

Lisa Rabl