Finding the truth when you're stuck in the social echo chamber8 December 2016
Since Trump’s election, the online world has been discussing the phenomenon of Fake News and Social Echo Chambers. And over the past few months in particular, Google and Facebook seem to be guilty of the old adage, “don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story”.
Facebook’s algorithms in particular de-emphasise external links in favour of ‘on app’ interaction, with research finding that nearly 60% of shares come from users who haven’t even read the link. In a step to address the issue, Mark Zuckerberg has this week released Facebook’s new tool to combat fake news. With no indication of how they’ll enforce this however, it all seems a bit like a tokenistic, knee-jerk reaction.
Regardless of this, the social outlet is still guilty of trapping users in a filter bubble, or echo chamber, created as a result of its personalisation profiling algorithms. A platform which was supposed to democratise the world as a unified global village, now seems to be narrowcasting information at the detriment of democracy.
Instead of creating the democratic utopia, commentators have found that the social media site is instead splitting people apart, with users simply seeking out views that align with their own.
A study from earlier this year found that users “tend to aggregate in communities of interest, which causes reinforcement and fosters confirmation bias, segregation, and polarization.” It would seem that this has become the case with the phenomenon of the rise of the so-called ‘alt-right’.
And the flip is also evident. As this New Statesman article found this time last year, Twitter is also in on the act. But this time it is “luring the left into cosy delusion and dangerous insularity”. Seen as ‘left leaning’ in its approach, the platform counteracted a void left by the right wing dominated printed press. How many Twitter users were shocked with the outcome of the General Election, the Brexit result, or Trump’s win for that matter?!
It is undoubtedly unnerving how much these outlets know about our user experience, as demonstrated with the below study which shows you in real time what information the likes of Google are gathering from you:
But is it the platform that is to blame, or is it ourselves not wanting to hear conflicting points of view?