Theoretical, Empirical, and Technological Foundations for Systems that Monitor and Support Political Deliberation Online.

Learn more about the project

Online social networks have become an integral part of the public sphere, but they are also criticized for contributing to the crisis in Western democracies by facilitating the emergence of echo chambers, amplifying conflicts, and enabling manipulations of public opinion via social bots.

This state of affairs is the result of a complex interplay of technical systems, human actors, and partisan agendas that cannot be understood by one discipline alone. Interdisciplinary understanding of these phenomena needs to be based on theoretical expertise in computer science and the social sciences, empirical analysis and psychological experiments, plus a dialogue with civil society stakeholders.

We focus on three levels of analysis of political communication online: the detection of social bots and their strategies to manipulate communication (actor level); conflictual discussions among users (interaction level); and the emergence of echo chambers (structural level). Based on a deeper understanding of the issues at each level, the 3B project will develop tools and methods that monitor and support political deliberation online. Our tools and methods will discover manipulative social bots, monitor the quality and diversity of political discussions, and build bridges between digital communities in order to contribute to the diversification of opinions in echo chambers.

Recent blog posts

Workshop on the future of democracy and public sphere in the media society

In times of rapid change in media and society, democracy and the public sphere face new challenges and opportunities. New possibilities for participation are countered by the dangers of polarization, fake news and manipulation of public opinion formation in social media. To illuminate and deepen the complex interplay between media development, societal change, and democratic processes, the 3B project in collaboration with the Center for Media and Society (ZMG) at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen invited to a workshop on the…

by Felix Gumbert

Bots Building Bridges preliminary research presented at three international conferences.

Creating Heuristics to Identify Echo Chambers in Political Discussions on Twitter is part of one research stream of the 3B project. It is aimed to develop automated tools to map information environment ‘health’, through transparent and objective indicators addressing, for example, diversity of perspectives; openness to opposing views; and the extent to which debates informed by reliable sources. The research was presented by Robert Ackland (Australian National University) at Sunbelt 2023 -- The International Network for Social Network Analysis Conference…

by Francisca Borquez

3B Bots Building Bridges research presented at the ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference, and at the University of Queensland

The 8th Biennial Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research Incorporated (ACSPRI) Social Science Methodology Conference was held on 23-24 November, 2022 (online), providing an opportunity for multidisciplinary researchers to discuss current challenges around social science methodologies. Under the stream 'Research technology and tools', Rob Ackland presented 'Characterising Political Discussion Networks on Twitter', joint work with colleagues from Bielefeld University and Zeppelin University. The presentation provided an overview of a Twitter conversation data collection and sampling approach, and outlined some…

by Francisca Borquez

B3 presentations at the Congress of the German Sociological Association

The 41st Congress of the German Sociological Association was held at Bielefeld University, between September 26 and 30 under the guiding theme „polarized worlds“. The B3-project was represented by three presentations of its members in two different panels. In his talk, „Methods for Analyzing Conflict in Threaded Online Conversations: The first presidential debate of the 2020 US election on Twitter“, Felix Gumbert highlighted shortcomings of current empirical research on Twitter regarding segregation and political polarization. Prominent approaches mostly rely on…

by Felix Gumbert

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