Online Debates


The advent of the Web and Online Social Networks (OSN) created an unprecedented amount of accessible information. These tools have allowed everyone to become a news medium by setting up a website, a blog, or simply creating an account on an OSN, thus enlarging the offer with a significant number of individual uncontrolled contributions. While promoting more democratic access to information, direct and unfiltered communication channels may expose readers to manipulative, biased, and disinformative content.

The pollution of the societal debate, the distortion of the political agenda, and other effects of misuse of the Web and OSN represent significant issues for modern democracies. Since no recognizable authority handles the responsibility for the quality of the shared information, every user acquires a “reputability” just by her activity on the Web. Moreover, recommendation and advertising systems embedded into online news platforms and OSNs, generate the so-called algorithmic bias facilitating the formation of alternative realities, feeding into the confirmation bias, and amplifying polarization. This makes it ultimately challenging to evaluate the “quality” of the accessed information.


Our research aims at three different and complementary goals:

  • define a methodological, data-driven framework for the study of online debates built on top of AI/ML data enrichment pipelines and high-order, feature-rich, and dynamic network modeling;
  • tune and apply such a framework in the context of PIEs (Polluted Information Environments) to study how they form, evolve and to what extent their evolution can be predicted;
  • propose an inferential methodology to measure pollution (while assessing its statistical significance), evaluate the outcome of mitigation strategies, and estimate pollution evolution predictability.

Main Collaborations: Dino Pedreschi (UNIPI)

Related (selected) publications

  1. Toward a Standard Approach for Echo Chamber Detection: Reddit Case Study
    Virginia MoriniLaura Pollacci, and Giulio Rossetti
    Applied Sciences 2021
  2. Change my Mind: Data Driven Estimate of Open-Mindedness from Political Discussions
    In Complex Networks & Their Applications 2022
  3. Attributed Stream-Hypernetwork analysis: Homophilic Behaviors in Pairwise and Group Political Discussions on Reddit
    Andrea FaillaSalvatore Citraro, and Giulio Rossetti
    In Complex Networks & Their Applications 2022
  4. Will You Take the Knee? Italian Twitter Echo Chambers’ Genesis during EURO 2020
    Chiara Buongiovanni, Roswita Candusso, Giacomo Cerretini, Diego Febbe, Virginia Morini, and Giulio Rossetti
    In Complex Networks & Their Applications 2022
  5. A framework for the diachronic and linguistic analysis of online polarized discussions
    Erica Cau, Virginia Morini, and Giulio Rossetti
    In Complex networks 2023
  6. Higher-Order Estimate of Open Mindedness in Online Political Discussions
    Giulia Ferro, Valentina Pansanella, and Giulio Rossetti
    In International School and Conference on Network Science 2023
  7. Trends and Topics: Characterizing Echo Chambers’ Topological Stability and In-group Attitudes
    Erica Cau, Virginia Morini, and Giulio Rossetti
    arXiv preprint arXiv:2307.15610 2023