Echo chamber (media)

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In news media, the term echo chamber is analogous with an acoustic echo chamber, where sounds reverberate in a hollow enclosure. An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system. Inside a figurative echo chamber, official sources often go unquestioned and different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.

How it works[edit]

Observers of journalism in the mass media have recognized that an echo chamber effect is occurring in media discourse.[1][2] One purveyor of information will make a claim, which many like-minded people then repeat, overhear, and repeat again (often in an exaggerated or otherwise distorted form)[3] until most people assume that some extreme variation of the story is true.[4]

The echo chamber effect that occurs online is due to a harmonious group of people amalgamating and developing tunnel vision. Participants in online communities may find their own opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems. This is happening because the Internet has provided access to a wide range of readily available information and people are increasingly receiving their news online through untraditional sources. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have established personalization algorithms that cater specific information to individuals’ online newsfeeds. This method of curating content has replaced the function of the traditional news editor.[5]

Online social communities are fragmented when like-minded people group together and members hear arguments in one specific direction. Social networking communities are powerful reinforcers of rumors[6] because people trust evidence supplied by their own social group, more than they do the news media.[7] This can create significant barriers to critical discourse within an online medium. Social discussion and sharing suffer when people have a narrow information base and don’t reach outside their network.

Many real-life communities are also segregated by political beliefs and cultural views. The echo chamber effect may prevent individuals from noticing changes in language and culture involving groups other than their own. Regardless, the echo chamber effect reinforces one's own present world view, making it seem more correct and more universally accepted than it really is.[8] Another emerging term for this echoing and homogenizing effect on the Internet within social communities is cultural tribalism.[9]


Ideological echo chambers have existed in many forms, for centuries. The echo chamber effect has largely been cited as occurring in politics.

  • The McMartin preschool trial coverage was criticized by David Shaw in his 1990 Pulitzer Prize winning articles, "None of these charges was ultimately proved, but the media largely acted in a pack, as it so often does on big events, and reporters' stories, in print and on the air, fed on one another, creating an echo chamber of horrors."[10] He said this case "exposed basic flaws" in news organizations like "Laziness. Superficiality. Cozy relationships" and "a frantic search to be first with the latest shocking allegation". "Reporters and editors often abandoned" journalistic principles of "fairness and skepticism." And "frequently plunged into hysteria, sensationalism and what one editor calls 'a lynch mob syndrome.'"
  • Clinton-Lewinsky scandal reporting was chronicled in Time Magazine's 16 February 1998 "Trial by Leaks" cover story[11] "The Press And The Dress: The anatomy of a salacious leak, and how it ricocheted around the walls of the media echo chamber" by Adam Cohen.[12] This case was reviewed in depth by the Project for Excellence in Journalism in "The Clinton/Lewinsky Story: How Accurate? How Fair?"[13]
  • Starting in the fall of 2014, the gaming community's Gamergate attacks and journalists' responses might be considered as echo chambers.[14][15]
  • The spreading of misinformation online and the resulting echo chamber has also been linked to those who campaigned on the 'Remain' side during Brexit.[16]
  • The 2016 presidential election in the United States triggered a stream of discourse about the echo chamber in media.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Moon the Messiah, and the Media Echo Chamber". Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  2. ^ Jamieson, Kathleen Hall; Joseph N. Cappella. Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-536682-4. 
  3. ^ Parry, Robert (2006-12-28). "The GOP's $3 Bn Propaganda Organ". The Baltimore Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  4. ^ "SourceWatch entry on media "Echo Chamber" effect". SourceWatch. 2006-10-22. Retrieved 2008-02-03. 
  5. ^ Hosanagar, Kartik. "Blame the Echo Chamber on Facebook. But Blame Yourself, Too". Wired. 
  6. ^ DiFonzo, Nicholas. "The Watercooler Effect: An Indispensable Guide to Understanding and Harnessing the Power of Rumors". Penguin, 2008. 
  7. ^ DiFonzo, Nicholas. "The Echo-Chamber Effect". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Wallsten, Kevin (2005-09-01). Political Blogs: Is the Political Blogosphere an Echo Chamber?. American Political Science Association's Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C.: Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley. 
  9. ^ Dwyer, Paul. "Building Trust with Corporate Blogs" (PDF). Texas A&M University: 7. Retrieved 2008-03-06. 
  10. ^ SHAW, DAVID (19 January 1990). "COLUMN ONE : NEWS ANALYSIS : Where Was Skepticism in Media? : Pack journalism and hysteria marked early coverage of the McMartin case. Few journalists stopped to question the believability of the prosecution's charges.". Los Angeles Times. 
  11. ^ "TIME Magazine -- U.S. Edition -- February 16, 1998 Vol. 151 No. 6" (Vol. 151 No. 6). February 16, 1998. 
  12. ^ Cohen, Adam (16 February 1998). "The Press And The Dress". Time. 
  13. ^ "The Clinton/Lewinsky Story: How Accurate? How Fair?" (PDF). Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  14. ^ "Escaping the echo chamber: GamerGaters and journalists have more in common than they think". 
  15. ^ Smith, Ryan (24 September 2014). ""A Weird Insider Culture"". Medium. 
  16. ^ Chater, James. "What the EU referendum result teaches us about the dangers of the echo chamber". NewStatesman. 
  17. ^ El-Bermawy, Mostafa. "Your Filter Bubble is Destroying Democracy". Wired. 

Further reading[edit]