Justin Lane, Kevin McCaffree, and I have just posted a pre-print of an article on “Radicalization and Social Media Censorship.”

Here is a link to the preprint.

Here is the abstract:

Radicalized beliefs such as those tied to the QAnon conspiracy theory can lead some individuals and groups to engage in violent behaviour, as evidenced by the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. Understanding the mechanisms by which such beliefs are accepted, spread, and intensified is critical for any attempt to mitigate radicalization and avoid increased political polarization. This article presents an agent-based model of a social media network that enables investigation of the effects of censorship on the amount of dissenting information to which agents become exposed and the certainty of their radicalized views. The model explores two forms of censorship: 1) decentralized censorship—in which individuals can choose to break an online social network tie (unfriend or unfollow) with another individual who transmits conflicting beliefs and 2) centralized censorship—in which a single authority can ban an individual from the social media network for spreading a certain type of belief. This model suggests that both forms of censorship increase certainty in radicalized views by decreasing the amount of dissent to which an agent is exposed, but centralized “banning” of individuals has the strongest effect on radicalization.