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How YouTube’s recommendations pull you away from news

Huang, S., & Yang, T. (2024). Auditing Entertainment Traps on YouTube: How Do Recommendation Algorithms Pull Users Away from News. Political Communication, 1–19.

“Recommendation algorithms that customize information feeds for individuals have raised concerns about exacerbating inequalities in news exposure among citizens. In response to these concerns, we conducted an audit study on YouTube to analyze the algorithmic impact on curating news versus other content topics. We examined over 1.7 million YouTube video recommendations audited in 2019 and developed novel analysis approaches including network analysis and Markov chains. Results show that recommendation algorithms may potentially redirect users away from news content through two influence pathways: (1) the “topical filter bubbles,” wherein entertainment content has a higher probability of being recommended over news content in a self-reinforcing manner; and (2) “algorithmic redirection,” wherein the probability of entertainment videos being recommended after a news video is much higher than that for the opposite. Overall, YouTube recommendation algorithms have a higher probability of recommending entertainment videos than news. The findings imply essential biases in algorithmic recommendations on digital platforms beyond amplifying users’ preferences.”

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