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Is Facebook keeping you in a political bubble?

Stashed in: Facebook!, Politics!, Science!, Influence!, Social Media, MIT TR

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By comparing the two groups of stories, researchers found that Facebook's news feed algorithm does indeed create an echo chamber effect. But it is not as powerful as critics have feared. The algorithm made it only 1% less likely for users to be exposed to politically cross-cutting stories, the team reports online today in Science. "The power to expose oneself to perspectives from the other side in social media lies first and foremost with individuals," the team concludes.

The results are "certainly good with regard to the filter bubble concerns," says Sinan Aral, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, "but I'm not sure that 'We shouldn't be worried' is the story." For example, the study does not change the finding 3 years ago that Facebook creates a "strong herding bias" in how people vote, he says. So on the question of whether Facebook is a force for good or ill for democracy, Aral says, "the jury is still out."

One more reason to spend less time on Facebook.

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