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Digital Societies: The influence of web search engines on political opinion formation (ESUPOL)


Web search engines have become an important source when people seek information. While search engine queries play an important role in obtaining political information, to this date, only little is known about potential challenges and consequences that may emerge from this behavior. The present project is funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia and aims to provide insight into the influence of web search engines on political opinion formation. The interdisciplinary team consists of researchers from the Cologne Center for Comparative Politics and TH Köln (University of Applied Sciences). In this project, we will collect large amounts of web data from various search engines and analyze them with methods and techniques of natural language processing. Subsequent experiments will provide important insights into the causal relations between search engines and political opinion formation. Our investigation will include how factors such as "filter bubbles", collaborative filtering but also the users' lack of search or media competence influence these processes. The results of this research project are of fundamental importance for securing and strengthening democracy in a digital society in which search engines play a major role in political information gathering.

The project is part of the state-wide graduate institute on digital societies (link).


Cologne Center for Comparative Politics:

Principal investigator: Prof. Sven-Oliver Proksch (Professor for European and Multilevel Politics)

PhD Student: Franziska Pradel

TH Köln

Principal investigator: Prof. Philipp Schaer (Professor for Information Retrieval) 

PhD Student: Malte Bonart