Social Media

A society-wide failure of algorithmic transparency is currently perpetuating innumerable social, economic and health related risks around the world. While algorithms play a role in the proliferation of extremism online — be it white nationalism or other toxic social phenomena — we know very little about how these algorithms operate and how their operation is affecting users; researchers have no robust way to probe how or why extremism emerges and the role that algorithms play in its development. Our team is working on causal investigations of algorithmic responses to user behavior and the evolving dialectic between user behavior and algorithmic recommendations.

Research projects

Trajectories of YouTube consumption based on content exposure over time

What influence do YouTube algorithms have on political thought and radicalization? Researchers take a new approach, mapping content and users in a multi-dimensional space based on more granular information about their consumption than previous studies – in particular, the signals embedded in videos' scripts.

Published work

  1. Chris Hays, Zachary Schutzman, Manish Raghavan, Erin Walk, and Philipp Zimmer. 2023. Simplistic Collection and Labeling Practices Limit the Utility of Benchmark Datasets for Twitter Bot Detection. In Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2023 (WWW ’23). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 3660–3669.


Study finds bot detection software isn’t as accurate as it seems // MIT Sloan Ideas Made to Matter

MIT Sloan’s Ideas Made to Matter highlights the Social Media vertical’s recently published study that shows “general-purpose bot-detection algorithms trained on a particular data set may be highly error-prone when applied in real-world contexts.”

Social Media vertical wins Best Paper Award at the ACM Web Conference 2023

SES student Chris Hays received the award for the group’s publication “Simplistic Collection and Labeling Practices Limit the Utility of Benchmark Datasets for Twitter Bot Detection”.


Co-lead by Sinan Aral (David Austin Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management) and Dean Eckles (Associate Professor of Marketing at MIT Sloan), the Social Media vertical team consists of Chris Hays (MIT PhD Student, IDSS Social & Engineering Systems), Manish Raghavan (Drew Houston (2005) Career Development Professor at MIT Sloan and MIT EECS), Erin Walk (MIT PhD Student, IDSS Social & Engineering Systems), and Philipp Zimmer (MIT Technology and Policy Program and EECS SM).

MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Cambridge, MA 02139-4307