Phil 10.23.17

7:00 – 5:00 ASRC MKT

  • Suppressing the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME)
    • Robert Epstein, (American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology) Epstein and Robertson have found in multiple studies that search rankings that favor a political candidate drive the votes of undecided voters toward that candidate, an effect they call SEME (“seem”), the Search Engine Manipulation Effect.
    • Ronald Robertson (Northeastern University) I design experiments and technologies to explore the ways in which online platforms can influence the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of individuals and groups. Currently, I am a PhD student in the world’s first Network Science PhD program at Northeastern University and am advised by Christo Wilson and David Lazer.
    • David Lazer (Northeastern University) professor of political science and computer and information science and the co-director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks
    • Christo Wilson (Northeastern University) Assistant Professor in the College of Computer and Information Science atNortheastern University. I am a member of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute and the Director of the BS in Cybersecurity Program in the College.
    • Abstract: A recent series of experiments demonstrated that introducing ranking bias to election-related search engine results can have a strong and undetectable influence on the preferences of undecided voters. This phenomenon, called the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME), exerts influence largely through order effects that are enhanced in a digital context. We present data from three new experiments involving 3,600 subjects in 39 countries in which we replicate SEME and test design interventions for suppressing the effect. In the replication, voting preferences shifted by 39.0%, a number almost identical to the shift found in a previously published experiment (37.1%). Alerting users to the ranking bias reduced the shift to 22.1%, and more detailed alerts reduced it to 13.8%. Users’ browsing behaviors were also significantly altered by the alerts, with more clicks and time going to lower-ranked search results. Although bias alerts were effective in suppressing SEME, we found that SEME could be completely eliminated only by alternating search results – in effect, with an equal-time rule. We propose a browser extension capable of deploying bias alerts in real-time and speculate that SEME might be impacting a wide range of decision-making, not just voting, in which case search engines might need to be strictly regulated.
  • The search engine manipulation effect (SEME) and its possible impact on the outcomes of elections
  • Quantifying search bias: Investigating sources of bias for political searches in social media
    • From the Abstract: It is important to distinguish between the bias that arises from the data that serves as the input to the ranking system and the bias that arises from the ranking system itself. In this paper, we propose a framework to quantify these distinct biases and apply this framework to politics-related queries on Twitter.
  • Making Sense of Conflicting Science Information: Exploring Bias in the Search Engine Result Page
    • Abstract: Currently, there is widespread media coverage about the problems with ‘fake news’ that appears in social media, but the effects of biased information that appears in search engine results is also increasing. The authors argue that the search engine results page (SERP) exposes three important types of bias: source bias, algorithmic bias, and cognitive bias. To explore the relationship between these three types of bias, we conducted a mixed methods study with sixty participants (plus fourteen in a pilot to make a total of seventy-four participants). Within a library setting, participants were provided with mock search engine pages that presented order-controlled sources on a science controversy. Participants were then asked to rank the sources’ usefulness and then summarize the controversy. We found that participants ranked the usefulness of sources depending on its presentation within a SERP. In turn, this also influenced how the participants summarized the topic. We attribute the differences in the participants’ writings to the cognitive biases that affect a user’s judgment when selecting sources on a SERP. We identify four main cognitive biases that a SERP can evoke in students: Priming, Anchoring, Framing, and the Availability Heuristic. While policing information quality is a quixotic task, changes can be made to both SERPs and a user’s decision-making when selecting sources. As bias emerges both on the system side and the user side of search, we suggest a two-fold solution is required to address these challenges.
  • The Network Structure of Exploration and Exploitation
    • David Lazer (Northeastern University)
    • Abstract: Whether as team members brainstorming or cultures experimenting with new technologies, problem solvers communicate and share ideas. This paper examines how the structure of communication networks among actors can affect system-level performance. We present an agent-based computer simulation model of information sharing in which the less successful emulate the more successful. Results suggest that when agents are dealing with a complex problem, the more efficient the network at disseminating information, the better the short-run but the lower the long-run performance of the system. The dynamic underlying this result is that an inefficient network maintains diversity in the system and is thus better for exploration than an efficient network, supporting a more thorough search for solutions in the long run. For intermediate time frames, there is an inverted-U relationship between connectedness and performance, in which both poorly and well-connected systems perform badly, and moderately connected systems perform best. This curvilinear relationship between connectivity and group performance can be seen in several diverse instances of organizational and social behavior.
  • Polarization Game
  • Fika – Not an official one, so Wanajanat, Julie, May(?) and I went over CM and LMN

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