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The Geographic Embedding of Online Echo Chambers: Evidence from the Brexit Campaign

Bastos, M. T. ORCID: 0000-0003-0480-1078, Mercea, D. ORCID: 0000-0003-3762-2404 & Baronchelli, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0255-0829 (2018). The Geographic Embedding of Online Echo Chambers: Evidence from the Brexit Campaign. PLoS ONE, 13(11), e0206841. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206841


This study explores the geographic dependencies of echo-chamber communication on Twitter during the Brexit campaign. We review the evidence positing that online interactions lead to filter bubbles to test whether echo chambers are restricted to online patterns of interaction or are associated with physical, in-person interaction. We identify the location of users, estimate their partisan affiliation, and finally calculate the distance between sender and receiver of @-mentions and retweets. We show that polarized online echo-chambers map onto geographically situated social networks. More specifically, our results reveal that echo chambers in the Leave campaign are associated with geographic proximity and that the reverse relationship holds true for the Remain campaign. The study concludes with a discussion of primary and secondary effects arising from the interaction between existing physical ties and online interactions and argues that the collapsing of distances brought by internet technologies may foreground the role of geography within one’s social network.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
School of Science & Technology > Mathematics
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Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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