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University of Michigan School of Information


DS/CSS Seminar: Sandra González-Bailón

03/04/2021, 12:00 pm - 01:00 pm

Exposure to News in the Digital Age


The abundance of media options is a central feature of today’s information environment. The current media landscape is more decentralized than it ever was, and information is simultaneously flowing through many parallel channels (i.e., the web, social media, TV). In this talk I will discuss recent research in which we measure exposure to news across channels to (1) test claims of increasing audience fragmentation and ideological segregation and (2) measure the influence of automated accounts in distorting the salience of news sources on social media. Using an unprecedented combination of observed data from the US comprising a five-year time window and involving tens of thousands of panelists, I will show that co-exposure to diverse news is on the rise. And using social media data from two contentious political events in France and Spain, I will show that verified accounts are significantly more visible than unverified bots, and that discrepancies in source salience in social media and the web are generated by both human and bot activity. I will discuss the implications of these findings for how we think about the current communication environment, exposure to news, and ongoing attempts to limit the effects of misinformation, including social media verification policies.

Speaker bio: 

Headshot of Sandra Gonzalez smiling in front of a plain white wall

Sandra González-Bailón is an Associate Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and affiliated faculty at the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences. Prior to joining Penn, she was a Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute (2008-2013). She completed her doctoral degree in Nuffield College (University of Oxford) and her undergraduate studies at the University of Barcelona. Her research lies at the intersection of network science, data mining, computational tools, and political communication. Her applied research looks at how online networks shape exposure to information, with implications for how we think about political engagement, mobilization dynamics, information diffusion, and news consumption. A sample of her recent research can be found here. She is the author of the book Decoding the Social World (MIT Press, 2017) and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Networked Communication (OUP, 2020). She serves as Associate Editor for the journals Social NetworksEPJ Data Science, and The International Journal of Press/Politics, and she is a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science. She leads the research group DiMeNet (/daɪmnet/) – acronym for Digital Media, Networks, and Political Communication.

Her most recent projects include “Digital News and the Consumption of Information Online” (2017-2020, NSF award #1729412) and "Behavioral Effects of Exposure to Political Content in Social Media" (2020-2023, NSF award #2017655).


The University of Michigan Data Science / Computational Social Science faculty host a seminar series that features invited talks, research presentations and informal work-in-progress discussions. A list of the scheduled speakers for Winter 2021 (January-April) is available here

Link to talk.