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Modelling opinion dynamics under the impact of influencer and media strategies

  • Digital communication has made the public discourse considerably more complex, and new actors and strategies have emerged as a result of this seismic shift. Aside from the often-studied interactions among individuals during opinion formation, which have been facilitated on a large scale by social media platforms, the changing role of traditional media and the emerging role of "influencers" are not well understood, and the implications of their engagement strategies arising from the incentive structure of the attention economy even less so. Here we propose a novel opinion dynamics model that accounts for these different roles, namely that media and influencers change their own positions on slower time scales than individuals, while influencers dynamically gain and lose followers. Numerical simulations show the importance of their relative influence in creating qualitatively different opinion formation dynamics: with influencers, fragmented but short-lived clusters emerge, which are then counteracted by more stable media positions. Mean-field approximations by partial differential equations reproduce this dynamic. Based on the mean-field model, we study how strategies of influencers to gain more followers can influence the overall opinion distribution. We show that moving towards extreme positions can be a beneficial strategy for influencers to gain followers. Finally, we demonstrate that optimal control strategies allow other influencers or media to counteract such attempts and prevent further fragmentation of the opinion landscape. Our modelling framework contributes to better understanding the different roles and strategies in the increasingly complex information ecosystem and their impact on public opinion formation.

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Author:Luzie HelfmannORCiD, Natasa Djurdjevac Conrad, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Christof Schütte
Document Type:Article
Parent Title (English):Scientific Reports
First Page:19375
Year of first publication:2023
ArXiv Id:http://arxiv.org/abs/2301.13661
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