Who Makes Trends? Understanding Demographic Biases in Crowdsourced Recommendations

Abhijnan Chakraborty, Johnnatan Messias, Fabricio Benevenuto, Saptarshi Ghosh, Niloy Ganguly, Krishna P. Gummadi

Users of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter rely on crowdsourced content recommendation systems (e.g., Trending Topics) to retrieve important and useful information. Contents selected for recommendation indirectly give the initial users who promoted (by liking or posting) the content an opportunity to propagate their messages to a wider audience. Hence, it is important to understand the demographics of people who make a content worthy of recommendation, and explore whether they are representative of the media site's overall population. In this work, using extensive data collected from Twitter, we make the first attempt to quantify and explore the demographic biases in the crowdsourced recommendations. Our analysis, focusing on the selection of trending topics, finds that a large fraction of trends are promoted by crowds whose demographics are significantly different from the overall Twitter population. More worryingly, we find that certain demographic groups are systematically under-represented among the promoters of the trending topics. To make the demographic biases in Twitter trends more transparent, we developed and deployed a Web-based service 'Who-Makes-Trends' at twitter-app.mpi-sws.org/who-makes-trends.

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