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A recent market analysis performed by the social network revealed that Facebook news feed leads to echo chamber, filter bubble effects.

The results of the study published on early Friday morning have strengthened the belief that Facebook’s news feed structure is isolating people.

This occurs because Facebook’s users are exposed only to those news or ideas that generally comply with their preferences. Thus, it becomes all the more difficult for Facebook users to get access to other viewpoints, especially those that do not reflect their own beliefs.

The phenomenon was described by behavioral scientists as an “echo chamber” or “filter bubble” because people hear and read only the subjects they are interested in, without getting other contradictory opinions.

The research was performed by comparing the social network behavior of Republican and Democratic Facebook users.

The analysis has revealed that Republicans and Democrats, respectively, are more exposed to information pertaining to their favorite political party because Facebook posts links on their news feed based on their past Internet preferences and behaviors.

The social network has, nevertheless, defended itself by saying that this online behavior is not entirely influenced by them. Facebook users are exposed to contradictory opinions, as well, but they prefer to read only those stories that reflect their opinions. According to Facebook, it is the users’ fault and they should be more open-minded about contradictory stories, if they want to get a comprehensive understanding of a certain matter.

The study was performed with the help of a system, intentionally created by Facebook to carry out the current research.

The system identified all the news articles that were shared at least 100 times during the last months of 2014. The query managed to identify 226,000 news articles showing users’ preferences in terms of politics, world affairs and economy.

Researchers outside Facebook criticized the study because, they say, it has too many limitations.

First of all, the analysis has focused primarily on political viewpoints and perspectives, taking into account only liberals and conservatives’ behavior. These two categories are devoted to their political parties and they rarely seek to get other contradictory opinions.

Second of all, the percentage of liberal and conservative Facebook users does not go higher than 1%. This number is too small, therefore, it cannot stand as a proof that most Facebook users live in an “echo chamber”, researchers say.

Facebook should try to study the “echo chamber” effect on other categories of users to determine the exact extent to which the social network is isolating people in a “filter bubble”.

Moreover, further studies should take a deeper look at the way in which the identified news articles have, indeed, changed users’ political behaviors and beliefs.
Image Source: Media Salon

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