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Twitter Pivots to Reddit With Communities; But Will It Breed More Echo Chambers?

Will Twitter's Communities feature bring back much needed context or create 'echo chambers'? We explain.

Published
Tech and Auto
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Twitter has invited a handful of users to create the first Communities.</p></div>
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Microblogging platform Twitter has launched 'Communities' – an interest based groups feature where only members can participate in conversations.

If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. Facebook (through groups) and Reddit (through subreddits) have already been allowing users to interact in controlled environments, similar to Twitter's 'new' feature.

Once people join Communities, they can tweet directly to other members rather than to just their followers. Only members of a Community can like or reply to tweets sent by other members.

Currently, Twitter has invited very few users to create the first Communities but in the near future, it will let anyone create their own Community.

How Will Communities Work?

People can expect to see Communities on common interest topics, such as Dogs, Astrology, Sneakers and Skincare, right away.

Communities exist on your Twitter app as a place to Tweet about your interests, separate from your public timeline.

That means you can tweet all your thoughts on Mercury Retrograde directly to Astrology Twitter without worrying about spamming your sneakerhead friends’ feeds!

When you send a tweet in a Community, only people in your Community are able to reply but the tweets will be publicly visible.

Only those in the Community can engage in the conversation – tweet, reply, like, or retweet.

New members must be invited by the moderator or another member in the Community in order to join.

Each Community will have Moderators (currently only from the US) who can make internal Community rules and set the tone for future conversations – perhaps the dogs Community won’t accept pictures of cats.

The Big Picture

While it might sound fun to interact with like-minded people through Twitter's Communities, this feature will also limit the exposure to diverse perspectives and favour the formation of groups of like-minded users framing and reinforcing a shared narrative, that is, echo chambers.

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But, what is a social media echo chamber?

While scrolling through your social media feed, do you find yourself surrounded by opinions completely tailored to your beliefs? Are the viewpoints supported by rumours? Do you ever hear a friend speak on a topic with the belief that “everyone” thinks the same way?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, chances are you may have found an echo chamber.

Twitter's new feature Communities might end-up creating a biased social media experience that eliminates opposing viewpoints and differing voices.

Why We Must Avoid Echo Chambers?

Echo chambers tend to lead to a lack of original thought, dissenting opinions, and challenging ideas.

As explained by Paleo Foundation, echo chambers limit our opportunities for growth and stem healthy and necessary debate.

"The constant and perpetual affirmation of our own beliefs that occurs within an echo chamber obviously causes division and polarisation," read a statement from the organisation.

Although echo chambers echoe what we agree with, we must fight this.

"In order to truly get access to all information and to evaluate our media, we must give ourselves the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone. Otherwise, we find ourselves taking in many unresearched, false facts. While this becomes increasingly worse for society and leads to more division, there are things we can do to minimize this."
Page Cabianca ,University of Texas at Austin
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Get Ready for Extreme Views & Misinformation!

Facebook groups continue to be criticised for hosting extremism and misinformation, particularly related to vaccines.

With Twitter's Communities, posts consisting of extreme viewpoints and fake news will be less visible to outsiders, and can therefore build a sense of shared purpose.

Interestingly, a research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) has said that Facebook and Twitter users were more likely to interact with information disseminated by users with similar viewpoints.

The researchers – Matteo Cinelli, Gianmarco De Francisci Morales, Alessandro Galeazzi, Walter Quattrociocchi, and Michele Starnini – analysed more than 100 million posts collected between 2010 and 2018 from Facebook, Gab, Reddit, and Twitter about controversial topics such as abortion, gun control, and vaccination.

They found that compared with Reddit users, Facebook and Twitter users were more likely to interact with information disseminated by users with similar viewpoints.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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