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  • Tanushree Vaish

Effective Social Media Algorithms And Their Role In Curbing Echo Chambers

There is a general perception that social networks have become increasingly polarized and divided into various levels. Despite the effects of social polarization spilling over into the physical world, the scope of debate surrounding this topic has been limited till now. There are numerous social media platforms and algorithms. Each algorithm nurtures different levels and patterns of ideological, religious, political, and social segregations.

Depending on the social media platform, its features, and associated algorithms, the level of segregation and its outcome varies. Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the dominantly heard names in these kinds of debates. Although there are numerous other social media platforms, these three are known to be the most controversial in addition to being popular.

Looking at the current scenario, it is often argued that social media algorithms, social media platforms and a lack of digital regulatory mechanisms gave rise to these echo chambers. It is well-known that social media algorithms are making it easier for the echo chambers to grow. But, the most ignored fact is that there is another side of the story too. Although the personalization of social media feeds is leading to the growth of echo chambers, the social media giants are focusing more and more on curbing the spread of unwarranted fake news or misinformation.

There are numerous attempts to stop the spread of fake news from the beginning on these platforms. But, the patterns of information dissemination has rapidly changed in the past decade itself and it has become a herculean task for the technician's brains behind the algorithms to pace with these changes.

What Are Echo Chambers?

To understand the relationship between social media algorithms and echo chambers, it is essential to comprehend echo chambers first. Echo chambers are imaginative online environments that reinforce consumer’s views and perceptions by exposing them to similar and deep-rooted opinions.’ Although it is known that algorithms favour these echo chambers, it is not yet clear as to how far these echo chambers are impacting the social dynamics.

Echo chambers reinforce dominant viewpoints in the social media landscape, be it good or bad, and distort opposite views. It makes the entire process of information dissemination and consumption one-sided. It, thus, aids the growth of parochial and illogical mindsets that do not weigh diverse options or think comprehensively.

Echo chambers are everywhere around us, be it online or offline. But, they are stronger in the digital world as information spreads more rapidly online. Also, as people spend more time online and the credibility of internet content has increased, online echo chambers may reinforce dominant perspectives. This makes echo chambers an immediate issue to look into in the algorithmic perspective.

Echo chambers are sometimes referred to as filter bubbles. However, they are not the same. Although they are used interchangeably, there is a small but significant difference between the two. Filter bubbles are defined as algorithms that save or keep track of your click sources. Algorithms then exploit this memory to show similar content or the content in which you have previously shown interest in. This prevents you from finding different sources, contrasting opinions, new ideas, and unique perspectives.

How Social Media Algorithms Started Influencing Thinking Patterns Through Echo Chambers?

A decade ago, life was not the same as today. People were living in the physical world longing for the ‘live’ interaction with friends and dear ones. The advancement of technology and technological globalization has opened new avenues of information dissemination and content consumption. On similar lines, social media algorithms have radically transformed the landscape of content optimization by ‘granting’ access to only dominant views or opinions.

Algorithms are artificial intelligence. For beginners or even ordinary civilians, it is difficult to understand the working of artificial intelligence, how to keep track of digital behaviours, and avoid diverse perspective diffusion. Numerous studies have already revealed that misinformation travels faster than genuine information. The diffusion is even faster online. Social media algorithms favour selective exposure in different ways through echo chambers.

Attention Span

“The attention span of humans is just 8 seconds.” It gives increased scope for hooking headlines, click baits, and sensationalism that instantly grabs the user attention. As there is no special mechanism in place to differentiate or alert the users regarding clickbait content, users easily fall into the trap of sensational or polarizing information.

Pre-existing Notions

No matter how hard everyone reiterates, there is a dominant section arguing that echo chambers and algorithms only reinforce the existing notions, not creating new opinions or perspectives. Algorithms expose the users to relevant content. That is an established fact. But, the artificial intelligence mechanisms collect data from the digital behaviours of people, which are shaped by their own attitudes and outlooks towards an issue or a topic.

Digital Communities

There are a lot of gaps or areas where algorithms do not play a role in information diffusion. For example, discussion groups, portals, peer led pages, group chat boxes cannot be moderated or optimized. Most of the thinking patterns are influenced by the peer environment and the discussion forums, in which users contribute and participate.

Although algorithms have no role in digital communities, what kind of communities they are exposed to is decided by algorithms. Hence, in a way, algorithms also influence the communities they join.

How Effective Algorithms Can Curb The Menace Of Echo Chambers?

Despite repeated assertions and scrutiny, algorithms continue to nurture the echo chambers. However, the efforts of tech brains behind these algorithms have done some good work to prevent echo chambers from increasing the polarization caused by biased information dissemination through various unique features.

Report And Spam

Echo chambers are not the sole way of spreading misinformation. By introducing various features, the digital tech giants targeted the spread of misinformation in a multi pronged way. Report and spam are two such ways of empowering users to decide and limit the people who they can interact with online.

Also, scammers and spammers use social media as a weapon to slide into the user's DM (Direct Message) to share information that is not asked for. Report and spam buttons ensure these kinds of spammers are restricted from spreading their ill-intentions further.

Telegram, one of the popular peer-interaction and messaging platforms, adopted a different approach of incorporating report and spam features. It disallows and restricts users, who are reported by others, from sending messages to people who are not in their contact list for a week or an extended period. Repeated violations even after the restrictions are lifted result in extended restrictions or permanent blocking by the platform. This is one good way to stop the propagandists from circulating their agendas.

This feature is not restricted to messages and users alone but posts, profiles, videos, and images. This helps people see and realize about the intention of the owner of the content or atleast alerts them in differentiating harmful content.

In the history of evolution of algorithms, they have gone through a roller coaster ride of updates and moderations to reach the place that they are in now. Even though they are not as open ended in the beginning, algorithms were quite liberal. On the journey to serving best content and increase in user generated content has laid the path for content biasness.

The future may seem bleak for someone who is not aware of the dire urgency of algorithm regulation and overhaul. Experts, technology scientists, and researchers are brainstorming hard to come out with positive changes and emotional algorithms. The concept of emotional algorithms is new and still in its nascent stage. However, reflecting back on the technological progress, it is difficult but not impossible to reach a logical outcome that serves both the consumers and the tech giants in improving their service quality.

Keeping aside all these debates, it is sceptical if the social media giants express their willingness to bring in such large scale changes to the algorithms that are already helping them a lot in cashing in their services. However, it is about time and reaching a profitable solution to change the mindsets of these social network giants.

It is equally important to repair the damaging impact that has already been created by opting for confidence building measures and instilling trust in the audience. It is also important to make people understand the role of algorithms. Users should be digitally empowered to not settle for whatever is served on their plates and seek multiple answers for one question to avoid falling victim to propagandas and misinformation. The onus lies with all the stakeholders involved to grow out of echo chambers and make social media a safe and positive place for everyone across the globe.


Most of the internet searches are aimed at finding new sources and useful information. You assume that you get served the same content as other content consumers. But, you get served what the algorithms deem are fit for you because they keep track of your online content consumption patterns. This selective exposure of algorithms is called echo chambers.

These algorithms expose you to content that it thinks you may be interested in but not what you are actually interested in. But, human brains are unpredictable. Experts argue that algorithms should rather work in a path to expose the users to diverse perspectives, in addition to helping them consume only relevant content.

Social media is an ocean of content. Exposure to such huge chunks of data for each user is practically not possible. That is where algorithms do the background work for users by showing them content that is only useful, interesting, and entertaining. For instance, a post from a political party's social media handle of opposing views may be hidden from you, if you have never shown interest in similar content in the past. The chances are high that you cannot even realize that you are in the filter bubbles. As these algorithms never ask your permission to use your digital personal information, or spying on your privacy, it becomes even difficult for you to even think that you are being exposed to selective perspectives.

Various nations and experts have already started questioning these unethical practices, even though the intention was not parochialization or polarization. The algorithms are rather an attempt of simplifying users life by avoiding information overload. However, they turned out to be equally disadvantageous for the civilizational values of humanity as much as they are beneficial to expand the horizons of their knowledge.

Right now, jumping out of these filter bubbles or avoiding them is totally impossible. Echo chambers and the internet are inseparable in the current scenario. But, still you can avoid falling victim to biased algorithms or content by learning about the processes involved and keeping your attitudes open to diverse perspectives.


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