Menu
Facebook study disputes the 'echo chamber' effect

Facebook study disputes the 'echo chamber' effect

Almost 30 percent of news articles shared by users cut across ideological lines, Facebook researchers say

In Facebook's new Paper app, stories appear to unfold as they are opened

In Facebook's new Paper app, stories appear to unfold as they are opened

On Facebook, you might see a fair number of news articles shared by friends supporting Republican presidential candidates as the race heats up. Even if you're a Democrat.

The site's News Feed ranking, which can control the posts users see based on their personal information and activity on the site, has produced what some have called a "filter bubble" or "echo chamber": a homogenous stream composed primarily of like-minded posts, leaving little room for other points of view. Questions around the diversity of content in News Feed are not going away, given that many people now get their news on Facebook.

But it may not be as bad as it seems. The results of a new study by data scientists at Facebook, published Thursday in the journal Science, says that while much of the content people see on Facebook is aligned with their own ideology, a fair amount of it does represent opposing viewpoints.

The results, Facebook says, quantify for the first time the extent to which people are exposed to ideologically diverse news and information in social media.

Nearly 30 percent of all the news content that people see in the News Feed cuts across ideological lines, Facebook said. This means that nearly 30 percent of that content is shared by users who identified themselves as conservative on Facebook but was seen by users who identified themselves as liberal, and vice versa.

Counting just the content shared by people's friends reveals about the same percentage that cuts across ideological lines, the study said.

Facebook's algorithm that ranks results in the News Feed is designed to surface content to users that's aligned with what they're interested in, based on their activity. The results of this study help to show how much Facebook users do actually engage with content that reflects different points of view.

Nearly 25 percent of the news articles that people click on cut across ideological lines, Facebook said.

For the study, Facebook researchers developed a system that identified more than 226,000 news articles shared at least 100 times during the second half of 2014. The company wanted to see how often people were exposed to stories about politics, world affairs and the economy, which Facebook designated as being either conservative or liberal content, among liberal and conservative audiences.

The study has its limitations. It only looked at Facebook users who identified themselves as conservative or liberal in some way, which is less than 1 percent of the company's total user base. The study also did not look at whether the articles that were shared changed people's political views or habits.

The effect of algorithms like Facebook's on what people see online has generated controversy lately.

The Federal Trade Commission is looking at the issue of "algorithmic transparency," to assess the deeper incentives behind algorithms on sites like Google and Facebook, and how they affect people.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags analyticsInternet-based applications and servicessocial networkingsocial mediainternetsearch enginesFacebook

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments