Emotional Dynamics in the Age of Misinformation

Zollo, Fabiana; Novak, Petra Kralj; Del Vicario, Michela; Bessi, Alessandro; MozetiÄŤ, Igor; Scala, Antonio; Caldarelli, Guido; Quattrociocchi, Walter; Preis, Tobias

According to the World Economic Forum, the diffusion of unsubstantiated rumors on online social media is one of the main threats for our society. The disintermediated paradigm of content production and consumption on online social media might foster the formation of homogeneous communities (echo-chambers) around specific worldviews. Such a scenario has been shown to be a vivid environment for the diffusion of false claim. Not rarely, viral phenomena trigger naive (and funny) social responses—e.g., the recent case of Jade Helm 15 where a simple military exercise turned out to be perceived as the beginning of the civil war in the US. In this work, we address the emotional dynamics of collective debates around distinct kinds of information—i.e., science and conspiracy news—and inside and across their respective polarized communities. We find that for both kinds of content the longer the discussion the more the negativity of the sentiment. We show that comments on conspiracy posts tend to be more negative than on science posts. However, the more the engagement of users, the more they tend to negative commenting (both on science and conspiracy). Finally, zooming in at the interaction among polarized communities, we find a general negative pattern. As the number of comments increases—i.e., the discussion becomes longer—the sentiment of the post is more and more negative.