Group polarization, influence, and domination in online interaction networks

A case study of the 2022 Brazilian elections


The erosion of social cohesion and polarization is one of the topmost societal risks. In this work, we investigated the evolution of polarization, influence, and domination in online interaction networks using a large Twitter dataset collected before and during the 2022 Brazilian elections. From a theoretical perspective, we develop a methodology called d-modularity that allows discovering the contribution of specific groups to network polarization using the well-known modularity measure. While the overall network modularity (somewhat unexpectedly) decreased, the proposed group-oriented approach reveals that the contribution of the right-leaning community to this modularity increased, remaining very high during the analyzed period. Our methodology is general enough to be used in any situation when the contribution of specific groups to overall network modularity and polarization is needed to investigate. Moreover, using the concept of partial domination, we are able to compare the reach of sets of influential profiles from different groups and their ability to accomplish coordinated communication inside their groups and across segments of the entire network. We show that in the whole network, the left-leaning high-influential information spreaders dominated, reaching a substantial fraction of users with fewer spreaders. However, when comparing domination inside the groups, the results are inverse. Right-leaning spreaders dominate their communities using few nodes, showing as the most capable of accomplishing coordinated communication. The results bring evidence of extreme isolation and the ease of accomplishing coordinated communication that characterized right-leaning communities during the 2022 Brazilian elections, which likely influenced the subsequent coup events in Brasilia.

Journal of Physics: Complexity, 4:035008