DOI: 10.1126/science.ade7138 ISSN: 0036-8075

Asymmetric ideological segregation in exposure to political news on Facebook

Sandra González-Bailón, David Lazer, Pablo Barberá, Meiqing Zhang, Hunt Allcott, Taylor Brown, Adriana Crespo-Tenorio, Deen Freelon, Matthew Gentzkow, Andrew M. Guess, Shanto Iyengar, Young Mie Kim, Neil Malhotra, Devra Moehler, Brendan Nyhan, Jennifer Pan, Carlos Velasco Rivera, Jaime Settle, Emily Thorson, Rebekah Tromble, Arjun Wilkins, Magdalena Wojcieszak, Chad Kiewiet de Jonge, Annie Franco, Winter Mason, Natalie Jomini Stroud, Joshua A. Tucker
  • Multidisciplinary

Does Facebook enable ideological segregation in political news consumption? We analyzed exposure to news during the US 2020 election using aggregated data for 208 million US Facebook users. We compared the inventory of all political news that users could have seen in their feeds with the information that they saw (after algorithmic curation) and the information with which they engaged. We show that (i) ideological segregation is high and increases as we shift from potential exposure to actual exposure to engagement; (ii) there is an asymmetry between conservative and liberal audiences, with a substantial corner of the news ecosystem consumed exclusively by conservatives; and (iii) most misinformation, as identified by Meta’s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program, exists within this homogeneously conservative corner, which has no equivalent on the liberal side. Sources favored by conservative audiences were more prevalent on Facebook’s news ecosystem than those favored by liberals.

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