An Audit of Misinformation Filter Bubbles on YouTube: Bubble Bursting and Recent Behavior Changes

Tomlein, M., Pecher, B., Simko, J., Srba, I., Moro, R., Stefancova, E., Kompan, M., Hrckova, A., Podrouzek, J., Bielikova, M.

The negative effects of misinformation filter bubbles in adaptive systems have been known to researchers for some time. Several studies investigated, most prominently on YouTube, how fast a user can get into a misinformation filter bubble simply by selecting “wrong choices” from the items offered. Yet, no studies so far have investigated what it takes to “burst the bubble”, i.e., revert the bubble enclosure. We present a study in which pre-programmed agents (acting as YouTube users) delve into misinformation filter bubbles by watching misinformation promoting content (for various topics). Then, by watching misinformation debunking content, the agents try to burst the bubbles and reach more balanced recommendation mixes. We recorded the search results and recommendations, which the agents encountered, and analyzed them for the presence of misinformation. Our key finding is that bursting of a filter bubble is possible, albeit it manifests differently from topic to topic. Moreover, we observe that filter bubbles do not truly appear in some situations. We also draw a direct comparison with a previous study. Sadly, we did not find much improvements in misinformation occurrences, despite recent pledges by YouTube.

Cite: Tomlein, M., Pecher, B., Simko, J., Srba, I., Moro, R., Stefancova, E., Kompan, M., Hrckova, A., Podrouzek, J., Bielikova, M. An Audit of Misinformation Filter Bubbles on YouTube: Bubble Bursting and Recent Behavior Changes. RecSys ’21: Fifteenth ACM Conference on Recommender Systems. DOI: 10.1145/3460231.3474241


The study was awarded Best Paper at RecSys 2021 Conference.

Authors

Matúš Tomlein
Senior Researcher
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Branislav Pecher
Research Assistant
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Jakub Šimko
Expert Researcher
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Ivan Srba
Senior Researcher
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Róbert Móro
Senior Researcher
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Elena Štefancová
Research Assistant
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Michal Kompan
Expert Researcher
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Andrea Hrčková
Senior Researcher
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Juraj Podroužek
Senior Researcher
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Mária Bieliková
Expert Researcher
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