Echo chamber (media)
In news media, the term echo chamber is analagous 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
Observers of journalism in the mass media have recognized that an echo chamber effect is occurring in media discourse. 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) until most people assume that some extreme variation of the story is true.
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.
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 because people trust evidence supplied by their own social group, more than they do the news media. 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. Another emerging term for this echoing and homogenizing effect on the Internet within social communities is cultural tribalism.
Ideological echo chambers have existed in many forms, for centuries. The echo chamber effect has largely been cited as occurring in politics. The 2016 presidential election in the United States triggered a stream of discourse about the echo chamber in media. The spreading of misinformation online and the resulting echo chamber has also been linked to those who campaigned on the 'Remain' side during Brexit.
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- Jeff Chester, "A Present for Murdoch", The Nation, December 2003: "From 1999 to 2002, his company spent almost $10 million on its lobbying operations. It has already poured $200,000 in contributions into the 2004 election, having donated nearly $1.8 million during the 2000 and 2002 campaigns."
- Jim Lobe for Asia Times: "the structure's most remarkable characteristics are how few people it includes and how adept they have been in creating new institutions and front groups that act as a vast echo chamber for one another and for the media"
- Valdis Krebs, "Divided We Stand," Political Echo Chambers
- Jonathan S. Landay and Tish Wells, "Iraqi exile group fed false information to news media", Knight Ridder, March 15, 2004.
- R.G. Keen: The Technology of Oil Can Delays
- Echo chamber at SourceWatch
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