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A New Browser Extension Shows Us Just How Biased Our Facebook Feeds Are

This was, of course, created in response to November’s election results.

With the shocking results of the 2016 elections just a month behind us, it’s clear that the notion of the “social media” and internet “echo chambers” have very real consequences in terms of how people of all leanings view the world. Technology easily affords us the ability to exclude those whose opinions we deem wrong or objectionable, instead living online in the comfort of like-minded people.

Not only does it skew our perception of what the landscapes of the world look like, but it may also color our opinions further.


So to determine just how skewed our Facebook feeds are, a team of Princeton Students including Sunny He, Vivian Mo, Jonathan Zong, and Zachary Liu have created PolitEcho, a Chrome browser extension that analyzes your Facebook data, then produces a quantifiable result as to whether your social media environment is disproportionately red or blue.

It does so by comparing the political makeup of your friends (again, as determined by data analysis) to the amount of left- and right-leaning content in your actual Newsfeed, as shown below:

PolitEcho

Unsurprisingly, it was the 2016 election that inspired Zachary Liu to create the extension. He, like so many others, was convinced that Hilary Clinton would win the election because of the overwhelming pro-Hilary sentiment he witnessed on Facebook. When the results came in, he realized that he’d fallen victim to the echo chamber.

The plug-in also features a scatter plot that shows the spectrum of your friends’ political leanings and activity on the X-axis and the frequency of their posts on the Y-axis.

PolitEcho

The bigger the circle (and the higher on the chart it resides), the more active any one user is. And the further left the circle is, well...the further left the person is. So that one giant outlier in the top right is they type of guy that probably owns more than one type of shirt with Che Guevera on it. Or possibly Hillary Clinton herself.

At the very least, it’s a novel look at the composition of your Facebook friends, but it could (and should) serve as an eye-opening analysis of how slanted your social media experiences are. Taking that a step further, you can examine whether or not this bias is surmountable or whether it, consciously or subconsciously, changes the way you think.

It’s hard to examine this and contend that the “bubble” of social media isn’t a real, powerful phenomenon.

Articles
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Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

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Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

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Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

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