The discussion about Facebook's manipulation of the media reached a boiling point in recent weeks amid claims that it suppressed content from conservative sites.
The social media giant has an enormous amount of control over which content its users see and consume, a point the Wall Street Journal visualizes deftly with a new tool. It offers people of both parties a glimpse into the political news that likely never graces their news feed. Using data from a study conducted by Facebook, Red Feed, Blue Feed gives a side-by-side look how a liberal news feed and a conservative news feed might look on topics such as guns, abortion, transgender politics, and the presidential candidates.
The tool isn't meant to be a commentary on the recent Facebook dustup—the Journal says that it started working on this project several months ago—and it also doesn't claim to represent an actual person's news feed, which draws from many different sources. It is, however, an eye-opening look into the echo chambers that social media can create when it feeds people news that already fits their viewpoints.
Take a look at the differences between the news that might appear on a liberal news feed as opposed to a conservative news feed:
The Journal built the tool using data from a survey that Facebook researchers conducted over a six-month period. The survey tracked and analyzed the content shared by 10.1 million users who had identified their political views in their profiles. Based on the users' self-described political leanings, the researchers put the participants into five categories: very liberal, liberal, neutral, conservative, or very conservative.
They then tracked 500 articles shared on Facebook and labeled them with the same categories based on who shared them. If more than half the article shares were from users in a given category—"very conservative," for example—the link was placed into that category. To make the graphic, the Wall Street Journal grabbed content shared by users in the "very liberal" and "very conservative" categories (the links had to have least 100 shares and come from sources with at least 100,000 followers) and placed them side by side.
The graphic updates constantly, and the Wall Street Journal plans to maintain it throughout the election. So whenever you're feeling confident in the truth and morality of your stance on an issue, don't forget to check to see what the other side is being fed.