Social media has transformed how people talk to each other. But social media platforms are not shaping up to be the utopian spaces for human connection their founders hoped.

Instead, the internet has introduced phenomena that can influence national elections and maybe even threaten democracy.

Echo chambers or “bubbles” – in which people interact mainly with others who share their political views – arise from the way communities organize themselves online.

When the organization of a social network affects political discussion on a large scale, the consequences can be enormous.

In our study released on September 4, we show that what happens at the connection points, where bubbles collide, can significantly sway political decisions toward one party or another. We call this phenomenon “information gerrymandering.”

When bubbles collide

It’s problematic when people derive all their information from inside their bubble. Even if it’s factual, the information people get from their bubble may be selected to confirm their prior assumptions. In contemporary U.S. politics, this is a likely contributor to increasing political polarization in the electorate.

[…]