How To Fight The Filter Bubble: New Twitter App… Thing

Today I’m releasing something not film related at all: a little Twitter app designed to help anyone who wants to fight the effect of their own filter bubble.

What’s The App?

It’s terribly simple.

“Rando Cardrissian” collates headlines from as wide a range of opinions as I can easily source. Currently, it’s pulling headlines from all the major political parties in the US and UK (on two seperate US and UK accounts) but I’m going to keep expanding it to bring in viewpoints from as wide a range of communities as possible.

Every 15 minutes, it chooses a headline at random, and Tweets it, complete with an obfuscated link (so you can’t instantly tell whether a source is from Right-Wing-Preppers.com or Welfare-For-All.org). The intention isn’t for any user to read those links, although you can if you like - it’s to add a bit of social “white noise” that, unlike the rest of social media, reflects all viewpoints rather than just a local echo chamber.

Here are the two Randos - one UK-based and one US-based:

I’m intending to extend Rando to other social media if it proves useful and popular, but for now it’s Twitter-only.

What’s a Filter Bubble?

The “Filter Bubble” is the natural effect of sourcing most of your information and news from social media - as most of us do.

Social media either has a filtering mechanism (where you select who to follow, and only see what they share) or a voting mechanism (on Reddit, things that the community in aggregate likes will be visible, others won’t be).

That means that you’ll only see things that your “tribe” considers worthy. If 99% of your tribe is on one side of an issue (which will be true a lot of the time), you’ll never see arguments from or even talk about the issue from the opposing side.

Why Is This Bad?

Filter bubbles are a real problem for four reasons:

  • They undermine the marketplace of ideas, in much the same way that censorship does. Filter bubbles become echo chambers. If you’re never exposed to opinions or arguments that challenge your point of view, you never question it or evolve it.

  • They cause you to dehumanise those who don’t agree with you. We’ve seen this a lot recently in the UK - I’ve seen liberals claiming that Conservatives are literally pure evil with no motivation besides hatred, and English people claiming the SNP are purely selfish and destructive. Dehumanisation is really bad.

  • They damage your ability to accurately predict events in the world. We’ve most recently seen this in the UK with the extremely surprising - at least to people who source their news online - results from the General Election. If you want to make changes in the world, being able to accurately model and predict it is pretty much necessary for that.

  • They operate on viral principles. As a study at the University of Pennsylvania showed, content that is designed to cause anger (amongst a few predictors) is far more likely to be shared. This skews shared content away from complex viewpoints and dry-but-important issues and toward an endless state of rage.

Rando is designed to address the first three points. Point #4 needs a different approach - any suggestions?

So, there you have it. If you’d like to at least mildly innoculate yourself against filter bubble effects, try following Rando.

And let me know what you think, what improvements you’d like to see, and if you have any other suggestions or comments!