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  • George Samuels

Are You In A Community Echo Chamber?

Last week, we talked about Donald Trump in our weekly newsletter. This week, we talk about the argument made about Facebook “echo chambers” influencing the US elections and why it’s significant.

Firstly, what’s an echo chamber?

According to Wikipedia, it’s:

“a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.”1

Secondly, who’s saying Facebook influenced the elections? According to this article, after Trump became President, Facebook was criticized for “allowing false information to run rampant on its site, and that its algorithm tended to amplify the voices people wanted to hear, instead of providing a full picture of what was going on.”

But why does this matter to you?

The Filtered Life

Well, have you ever found yourself expecting to only see things that you find relevant, and having little to no tolerance for anything that sits outside of that?

Welcome to an echo chamber, and what it means to live a “filtered life” (or as some may refer to as “living in a bubble”).

Because a lot of our social technologies (e.g. Facebook, Google, etc.) respond to user demands, we’re now faced with a situation where such behavior calls for adjustments.

Because we use these technologies so often, whatever’s pushed out on Facebook or Google, becomes a user expectation for almost all other tools or apps we’re introduced to.

Although Facebook has done a fabulous job of helping to connect the world, it’s next biggest technological challenge may be non-technical: ethics. Can and should algorithms keep things “fair” online? Or can it keep enough diversity and serendipity so collisions take place just at the edges of what users have come to expect from their Facebook timelines? Does Facebook have a responsibility to its global community in shaping such behavior in a particular way?

This is something all big social networks or companies will eventually have to face with their own members.