Information Spread by Search Engines vs. Word-of-Mouth

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The spread of information in society has a significant political, social, and economic impact.
The following work [1] compares two fundamental methods of modern information spread: (1) wordof-mouth (WOM), where opinions spread through social connections and (2) spread through web
pages and search engines (WEB), where opinions are published on the internet and are then read by
others who use search engines to find fitting results to their queries.
In both methods, there are multiple opinions available and the user, after considering a limited
number of opinions (due to having limited time) eventually choses a single one.
In both methods, choice of an opinion is also based on the opinion of others; that is, there exists a
“social influence” effect, such that the probability that an agent will adopt an opinion is
proportional to the number of times the agent has been exposed to any specific opinion.
Simulations of these two different mechanisms predict that the opinions in a large population
will be less diverse when a population solely relies on WEB to search for information, compared to
WOM. These results can be seen in Figure 1 (top), which shows the final opinion states in a population
following temporal spread. In WOM, more opinions (colors) co-exist together.
The simulations of the WEB spread dynamics include both the principle of the PageRank algorithm together with the observed users’ tendency to click on different results returned from
the Google search engine, also known as the SERP (Search Engine Result Probability) function.
The simulative predictions were confirmed by an experimental work in which two groups of users were asked to answer similar questions. The first group was requested to answer the
questions by asking their social circle (WOM), while the second was asked to search the questions on Google (WEB). The experiment confirmed that populations that search information only by WOM have a more diverse set of opinions as compared to populations solely using WEB methods.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
StatePublished - 26 Oct 2020
EventMISDOOM 2021: Symposium on Disinformation in Open Online Media (MISDOOM) -
Duration: 26 Oct 202027 Oct 2020


ConferenceMISDOOM 2021
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Information Spread by Search Engines vs. Word-of-Mouth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this