Echo chamber (media)

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In news media, echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system. By visiting an "echo chamber", people are able to seek out information which reinforces their existing views, potentially as an unconscious exercise of confirmation bias. This may increase political and social polarization and extremism.[1] The term is a metaphor based on the acoustic echo chamber, where sounds reverberate in a hollow enclosure.

Another emerging term for this echoing and homogenizing effect on the Internet within social communities is cultural tribalism.[2]

Overview[edit]

The Internet has expanded the variety and amount of accessible political information. On the positive side, this may create a more pluralistic form of public debate; on the negative side, greater access to information may lead to selective exposure to ideologically supportive channels.[1] In an extreme "echo chamber", 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]

It is important to distinguish the difference between echo chambers and filter bubbles. Both concepts relate to the ways individuals are exposed to content devoid of clashing opinions, and colloquially might be used interchangeably. However, echo chamber refers to the overall phenomenon by which individuals are exposed only to information from like-minded individuals, while filter bubbles are a result of algorithms that choose content based on previous online behavior, as with search histories or online shopping activity[5].

The echo chamber effect occurs online due to a harmonious group of people amalgamating and developing tunnel vision. Participants in online discussions may find their opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems. However, individuals who participate in echo chambers often do so because they feel more confident that their opinions will be more readily accepted by others in the echo chamber.[6] This happens because the Internet has provided access to a wide range of readily available information. People are increasingly receiving their news online through untraditional sources, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, that have established personalization algorithms that cater specific information to individuals’ online feeds. This method of curating content has replaced the function of the traditional news editor.[7] The mediated spread of information through online networks causes a risk of an algorithmic filter bubble.

Online social communities become fragmented when like-minded people group together and members hear arguments in one specific direction. In certain online platforms, such as Twitter, echo chambers are more likely to be found when the topic is more political in nature compared to topics that are seen as more neutral.[8] Social networking communities are powerful reinforcers of rumors[9] because people trust evidence supplied by their own social group, more than they do the news media.[10][unreliable source?] 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. The echo chambers can be detrimental to the well-being of a person. Essentially, the filter bubble can distort our very own realities that we thought could not be altered by outside sources. The Farnam Street academic blog explains that the filter bubble can have a bigger impact on us than we think. It can create echo chambers that leads us to believe that what you are seeing through ads is the only opinion or perspective that is right.[11] This goes back to political ads that were constantly in circulation on the internet making the user think that it is the only correct opinion out there. Put otherwise, “If we don’t like facts, we don’t believe them. If we DO like something presented to us as fact, even if it is false, we tend to believe it.[12] If we see too much of our viewpoint and perspectives everyday, we believe that there are no other opinions and that ours is the correct one in all cases.

Many offline 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. Online echo chambers can sometimes influence an individual’s willingness to participate in similar discussions offline. A 2016 study found that “Twitter users who felt their audience on Twitter agreed with their opinion were more willing to speak out on that issue in the workplace”.[6]

Alleged examples[edit]

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."[13] 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[14] "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.[15] This case was reviewed in depth by the Project for Excellence in Journalism in "The Clinton/Lewinsky Story: How Accurate? How Fair?"[16]
  • Starting in the fall of 2014, the Gamergate attacks and journalists' responses have been alleged to be echo chambers.[17][18]
  • A New Statesman essay argued that echo chambers were linked to the UK Brexit referendum.[19]
  • The 2016 presidential election in the United States triggered a stream of discourse about the echo chamber in media.[20] Constituents were more likely to absorb information about topics such as gun control and immigration that aligned with their preexisting beliefs, as they were more likely to view information they already agreed with.[21] Facebook is more likely to suggest posts that are congruent with your standpoints; therefore there was mainly repetition of already stable standpoints instead of a diversity of opinions. Journalists argue that diversity of opinion is necessary for true democracy as it facilitates communication, and echo chambers, like those occurring in Facebook, inhibited this.[20] Some believed echo chambers played a big part in the success of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential elections.[22]
  • The subreddit /r/incels and other online incel communities have also been described as echo chambers.[23][24][unreliable source?]

Countermeasures[edit]

Some companies have also made efforts in combating the effects of an echo chamber on an algorithmic approach. A high-profile example of this is the changes Facebook made to its “Trending” page, which is an on-site news source for its users. Facebook modified their “Trending” page by transitioning from displaying a single news source to multiple news sources for a topic or event. The intended purpose of this was to expand the breadth of news sources for any given headline, and therefore expose readers to a variety of viewpoints. Another example is a beta feature on BuzzFeed News, called “Outside Your Bubble"[25]. This experiment adds a module at the bottom of Buzzfeed News articles to show reactions from various platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. This concept aims to bring transparency and prevent biased conversations diversifying the viewpoints their readers are exposed to.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Barberá, Pablo, et al. "Tweeting from left to right: Is online political communication more than an echo chamber?." Psychological science 26.10 (2015): 1531-1542.
  2. ^ Dwyer, Paul. "Building Trust with Corporate Blogs" (PDF). Texas A&M University: 7. Retrieved 2008-03-06.
  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. ^ Bakshy, Eytan; Messing, Solomon; Adamic, Lada A. (2015-06-05). "Exposure to ideologically diverse news and opinion on Facebook". Science. 348 (6239): 1130–1132. doi:10.1126/science.aaa1160. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 25953820.
  6. ^ a b Hampton, Keith N.; Shin, Inyoung; Lu, Weixu (2017-07-03). "Social media and political discussion: when online presence silences offline conversation". Information, Communication & Society. 20 (7): 1090–1107. doi:10.1080/1369118x.2016.1218526. ISSN 1369-118X.
  7. ^ Hosanagar, Kartik (2016-11-25). "Blame the Echo Chamber on Facebook. But Blame Yourself, Too". Wired.com. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  8. ^ Barberá, Pablo; Jost, John T.; Nagler, Jonathan; Tucker, Joshua A.; Bonneau, Richard (2015-08-21). "Tweeting From Left to Right". Psychological Science. 26 (10): 1531–1542. doi:10.1177/0956797615594620.
  9. ^ DiFonzo, Nicholas (2008-09-11). The Watercooler Effect: An Indispensable Guide to Understanding and Harnessing the Power of Rumors. Penguin Books. ISBN 9781440638633. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  10. ^ DiFonzo, Nicholas (2011-04-21). "The Echo-Chamber Effect". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  11. ^ Parrish, Shane. "How Filter Bubbles Distort Reality: Everything You Need to Know". Farnam Street.
  12. ^ Contributor Quora (28 February 2018). "Are You In A Social Media Echo Chamber? How To Take An Objective Look". Forbes.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "TIME Magazine -- U.S. Edition -- February 16, 1998 Vol. 151 No. 6" (Vol. 151 No. 6). February 16, 1998.
  15. ^ Cohen, Adam (16 February 1998). "The Press And The Dress". Time.
  16. ^ "The Clinton/Lewinsky Story: How Accurate? How Fair?" (PDF). Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Escaping the echo chamber: GamerGaters and journalists have more in common than they think". pocketgamer.biz.
  18. ^ Smith, Ryan (24 September 2014). ""A Weird Insider Culture"". Medium.
  19. ^ Chater, James. "What the EU referendum result teaches us about the dangers of the echo chamber". NewStatesman.
  20. ^ a b El-Bermawy, Mostafa. "Your Filter Bubble is Destroying Democracy". Wired.
  21. ^ Difonzo, Nicolas (22 April 2011). "The Echo Chamber Effect". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  22. ^ Hooton, Christopher (10 November 2016). "Your social media echo chamber is the reason Donald Trump ended up being voted President". The Independent. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  23. ^ http://www.collegian.psu.edu/opinion/columnists/article_51140340-c8dc-11e7-9061-6faec77ded6e.html
  24. ^ https://scallywagandvagabond.com/2017/11/incel-misogynist-mens-ban-sub-reddit/
  25. ^ "Outside Your Bubble". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
  26. ^ Smith, Ben (February 17, 2017). "Helping You See Outside Your Bubble". BuzzFeed.

Further reading[edit]