Chung-hong Chan, King-Wa Fu
The “Mutual Ignoring” Mechanism of Cyberbalkanization: Triangulating Big Data Analysis and Agent-Based Modeling

Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 2018: 15, issue 4, pp. 378-387
ISSN: 1933-1681 (print); 1933-169X (online)

Cyberbalkanization has been observed in some online activities, but its mechanism remains uncertain. Drawing on the Social Balance Theory, we theorized that the formation of “mutual ignoring” triads (three actors in a group with only a pair of interacts) in a network is a key procedure for cyberbalkanization. A cyberbalkanized network was constructed using data shared on Facebook Pages during the 2014 Hong Kong protests. Our findings indicate “mutual ignoring” was a prominent triad network configuration, whereas no such configuration was found in randomly generated networks. Our empirical-based observation was retested with simulation by agent-based model, confirming that “mutual ignoring” is essential for the emergence of cyberbalkanization. A strategy is then suggested to minimize cyberbalkanization.