Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Communication Studies and University Honors

First Advisor

Erin Spottswood

Abstract

This extended literature review investigates how the architecture and features of the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm, EdgeRank, can inhibit and facilitate the expression of political opinions. This paper will investigate how Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s theory on public opinion, Spiral of Silence, can be used to assess the Facebook news feed as a political opinion source that actively shapes users’ perceptions of minority and majority opinion climates. The feedback loops created by the algorithm’s criteria influences users’ decisions to self-censor or express their political opinions with interpersonal connections and unfamiliar connections on the site.

Keywords: Spiral of Silence Theory, machine-learning algorithms, feedback loops, Facebook News Feed, political communication, online political communication, social networking sites

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