In recent years, statistical physics’ methodologies have proven extremely successful in offering insights into the mechanisms that govern social interactions. However, the question of whether these models are able to capture trends observed in real-world datasets is hardly addressed in the current literature. With this work we aim at bridging the gap between theoretical modeling and validation with data. In particular, we propose a model for opinion dynamics on a social network in the presence of external triggers, framing the interpretation of the model in the context of misbehavior spreading. We divide our population in aware, unaware and zealot/educated agents. Individuals change their status according to two competing dynamics, referred to as behavioral dynamics and broadcasting. The former accounts for information spreading through contact among individuals whereas broadcasting plays the role of an external agent, modeling the effect of mainstream media outlets. Through both simulations and analytical computations we find that the stationary distribution of the fraction of unaware agents in the system undergoes a phase transition when an all-to-all approximation is considered. Surprisingly, such a phase transition disappears in the presence of a minimum fraction of educated agents. Finally, we validate our model using data collected from the public discussion on Twitter, including millions of posts, about the potential adverse effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. We show that the intervention of external agents, as accounted for in our model, is able to reproduce some key features that are found in this real-world dataset.
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