A new study suggests that people who use search engines, social media, and aggregators to access news may have more diverse informational diets .
Researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Liverpool analyzed web tracking data from around 3,000 UK news users.
The study grouped visits to the most popular UK news websites for one month into three categories :
- Shortcut, when someone clicks on an article from the home page of a news site or from another article on the same site.
- Search access, when the previous URL was associated with a search page.
- Access to Facebook, Twitter and Google News, when the above URL was associated with one of those platforms.
They then combined measures of diversity and media bias to compare the variety of news in each category. They discovered that people who used search engines, social networks and aggregators to access news received a more diverse mix of information .
The results also showed that older people have less diverse news repertoires than younger people and that men have less diverse repertoires than women.
Researchers cannot extrapolate the findings from one country to the rest of the world, but the study challenges the existence of bubble filters, which work as explained by Eli Pariser in his book The Bubble Filter :
Left to their own devices, custom filters present a certain kind of invisible self-propaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas, amplifying our desire for things that are familiar to us, and keeping us ignorant of the dangers that lurk in the dark territory of the unknown. In the filter bubble there is less scope for casual encounters that provide insight and learning. Creativity often occurs through the collision of ideas from different disciplines and cultures.