Working papers

Raise your voice! Activism and peer effects in online social networks (PDF)

Abstract: Do peers influence individuals’ involvement in political activism? To provide a quantitative answer, I study Argentina’s abortion rights debate through Twitter, the social media platform. Pro-choice and pro-life activists coexisted online, and the evidence suggests peer groups were not too polarized. I develop a model of strategic interactions in a network allowing for heterogeneous peer effects. Next, I estimate peer effects and test whether online activism exhibits strategic substitutability or complementarity. I create a novel panel dataset where links and actions are observable by combining tweets’ and users’ information. I provide a reduced-form analysis by proposing a network-based instrumental variable. The results indicate strategic complementarity in online activism, both from aligned and opposing peers. Notably, the evidence suggests homophily in the formation of Twitter’s network, but it does not support the hypothesis of an echo-chamber effect.

Media: uc3nomics (English); Nada es Gratis (Spanish).

Work in progress

Hate in the Tropics: Bolsonaro’s Triumph and the Surge of Online Hate Speech in Brazil

with D. Marino Fages.
Status: draft in progress.

Abstract: How does the advent of new information shape social norms and individual behavior? We delve into the aftermath of Bolsonaro’s triumph in the 2018 Brazilian presidential election, examining its impact on the prevalence of online hate speech. Leveraging Twitter data spanning 2017 to 2019, we employ Natural Language Processing techniques to detect hate speech in tweets. To precisely identify the impact of Bolsonaro’s election on online expressions of hate, we adopt a difference-in-differences methodology, utilizing the election outcome as an information shock. We document a significant surge in hate speech via Twitter after the elections, particularly in municipalities where Bolsonaro’s support was comparatively low. We observe similar results in the individual-level analysis, indicating that intensive and extensive margins of hate speech contributed to the overall increase. We interpret these findings through the lens of a belief updating mechanism, emphasizing the process of revising social norms that dictate what is deemed acceptable to express (or not) in public. This interpretation is reinforced by the differential impact of the election based on the targets of hate speech. We find no differential effect on political hate and insults, but we observe a significant effect on homophobia, racism, and sexism - speeches that Bolsonaro is widely known to hold.

Silence in social networks

Status: draft in progress.

In short: How do social interactions affect what we publicly say and what we do not? I study a model of social norms, assuming interactions are structured through a network. Individuals choose whether to conform to a social norm – have a speech – or not – stay silent. Social norms may be controversial, and their compliance is observable. Then, individuals may remain silent (i) if no norm aligns with their preferences or (ii) if they do not want to conform to a social norm different from their friends, i.e., by social pressure. I investigate how the network structure and distribution of preferences regarding social norms affect the equilibrium outcome and under which circumstances the social pressure mechanism arises.

The long memory of poverty: the Historical Unsatisfied Basic Needs in Argentina

with E. Nicolini.
Pre-doctoral work.