How I left the Echo Chamber: Part I – Disabling Facebook News

Chris Burns - Nov 14, 2016, 1:10 pm CST
1
How I left the Echo Chamber: Part I – Disabling Facebook News

Earlier this year I disabled Facebook’s News section because of its highly filtered way of doing business. As a writer it’s important that I see the internet in as pure a fashion as possible. I don’t often visit Facebook for much other than to share photos of my family and friends and to converse with my family and friends. But this news section drew my eye and showed me how terrible the viral nature of “News” sharing was today – so I shut it off completely.

At the moment there is no “official” way to turn off the “Trending” (News) section in Facebook, but there is at least one fix. I use an extension for Google’s Chrome web browser called Hide Facebook Trending. Once enabled, I no longer see the Trending section of “News” on Facebook at all.

Unfortunately I’ve found little else in the way of blocking the Trending section in Facebook without extra consequences. Other web browser extensions exist, but largely without also blocking a number of other things. This then wades into filtering once again, and the same problems persist.

I did this because Facebook’s Trending section is informed by my search history, Facebook clicks, and Facebook interests. Because of this, news stories are often also biased in favor of my beliefs. If I started clicking on and sharing only articles about how ice cream tastes delicious, eventually I’d see mostly positive articles about ice cream.

But I don’t want to be served this way. If I want to be served only that which I am happy about, I’ll go to an ice cream shop.

cutout

Mark Zuckerberg suggests that there is a problem with “fake news” or “hoaxes” on Facebook. He says that “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.”

After being called out by a commenter on the 99% stat, Zuckerberg said, “The stat I mentioned is across the whole system. Depending on which pages you personally follow and who your friends are, you may see more or less. The power of Facebook is that you control what you see by who you choose to connect with.”

It’s partially on me to make certain the people I follow are a diverse collection of users. People I follow can share whatever they’d like, and I have the power to decide whether or not to continue to follow them, interact with them, or block them. Doing so affects the Trending “news” feed on Facebook, thereby steering me down whatever path I click myself into.

zuckerberg

But where Zuckerberg concentrates on fake news stories on Facebook, I contend that the “news” feed (Trending) itself is the problem. I cannot currently see a news feed that’s not tailored to my supposed interests based on clicks. That’s great for Facebook, great for clicks inside Facebook, but bad for human beings socially.

SEE TOO: Mr Zuckerberg, tear down this wall!

I want a Trending news section on Facebook that is not filtered. I want the option to be able to see news – and for that matter, things my friends have shared – without filtration. I want the option to see everything without Facebook deciding which item is going to be most likely to be clicked by me.

That sort of sorting is good for Facebook, and good for making people feel like the whole world thinks like they do. As such, it’s bad for discourse, and it’s bad for a future in which we can share ideas without fear of a healthy discussion. I don’t just want to “like” everything – I want to see stuff I don’t necessarily enjoy, too.

This is just one step on the road to cracking the walls and breaking down the doors of the echo chamber. A truly unfiltered web is out there – we just need to make an effort to seek it out!


Must Read Bits & Bytes