How Facebook Can Escape the Echo Chamber

How Facebook Can Escape the Echo Chamber
November 14 13:47 2016 Print This Article

(TECH CRUNCH) – Facebook may have built an influence so large that it’s cracking under the weight of the power and influence of its News Feed.  By 

Mark Zuckerberg began an interview on stage at Techonomy16 discussing the evolution of the News Feed and Facebook’s impact on the election. Post-election, journalists politicians, and pundits have questioned Facebook’s role in shaping the campaign and its outcome , debating the merits of Facebook’s position of primacy as a source of information.

Zuckerberg defended the News Feed’s progress arguing that the filter bubble isn’t an issue for Facebook. He suggested the real problem is that people by nature engage with content they like and find agreeable, and dismiss things they don’t agree with online as they would in real life.

“You’d be surprised at how many things we dismiss,” he said. “The problem isn’t that the diverse information isn’t there…but that we haven’t gotten people to engage with it in higher proportions.”

What are the tools that could help us escape the echo chamber?

  • If Facebook won’t change its algorithms for fear of going against its wildly successful revenue model or expand its Trending Topics product, it needs to implement better features to help diversify the content we see.
  • First, Facebook should hire human journalists to curate stories during elections. They should pick the best stories from a variety of sources and perspectives and flag them on Facebook as good quality and worthy of reading. Also: Fact checking. Google did it. Now it’s Facebook’s turn.
  • Since the personalized News Feed favors what we engage with, and we tend to engage with content we agree with, Facebook should provide an option to turn this off during elections to allow people to see algorithm-free, real-time content.
  • Imagine being able to activate a filter that would show you what your Facebook-specified Republican or Democratic or Libertarian etc. friends were sharing.
  • Facebook could create a feature that allows people to declare endorsement for a candidate, and users could then build a feed to see what that pool of friends was posting about as well as the conversation around their posts.
  • Facebook could curate and flag certain content as partisan, and those stories could appear with a link to an Instant Article of the opposing viewpoint or from an opposing news source (however, since not every issue is purely partisan — and not every news source either — this could get tricky).
  • Trending Topics should be expanded and should display more takes on political stories, not just what the highest number of people are talking about.
  • Facebook could use the “Suggested Videos” window that pops up when you watch a video to its completion to surface opposing viewpoints.
  • Facebook could show a post from a candidate on the opposing side whenever a politician posts from their account.

Facebook is hiding behind its “we’re a tech company, not a media company” guise in an effort to excuse itself from the fact that it hasn’t figured out the news. For such an influential platform that preaches social responsibility and prioritizes user experience, it’s irresponsible for Facebook to give people such a powerful megaphone for personal expression, only to lock them inside an echo chamber.

Despite what Zuckerberg claims, Facebook profoundly affected the way the U.S. consumed the election, just as it has shaped our news experience whether it wants to our not.

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