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Week 8 Refelections


Noticing the effects of filter bubbles and how algorithms are monetized to enable this is easy to see if your daily life.  All you need to do is google something enough and then watch ads and content start showing up in your timelines of your favorite social media sites to see it in action.  I have definitely noticed this in my own life.  Even when I think about my own real-life social circle and close friends.  Most of them I’ve known since high school and most share the same general beliefs and ideologies as me.  We come from roughly the same upbringings (even though we vary in culture ethnicity).  And whether by design or subconsciously, new friends and acquaintances that I relate to can generally fall roughly within these same parameters.  This makes sense though.  I think it is rare that people would naturally associate themselves with people they shared little in common with or are diametrically opposed to.  So to chalk up the issue with echo chambers to be squarely on the shoulders of algorithms and monetized corporations pushing agendas I think is a bit short sighted.  In fact, there was a recent white paper issued on the topic of media and democracy that noted significant difference in what people reported their media habits were vs what their actual proved to be.  The study found that “… People may explicitly tell interviewers they rely mostly on Fox News, while their web browsing histories and Facebook logs suggest they visit several different newspapers and CNN’s website (along with many apolitical sites).” (M. Grossman, pg 6).  There’s been multiple studies on this phenomenon actually, noted data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s best selling book, “Everybody Lies” goes deep into the topic to unmask truths about human nature, comparing traditional national poll and survey data to big data analytics pulled from the internet (mainly Google) to reveal some startling truths (if you haven’t read the book he has also done a great Ted Talk on the topic that you can find here).  So, while sites like Google, Facebook and others are in fact guilty of filter bubbles and exasperating echo chambers, the problem, like most problems, is much more nuanced.  All that being said, I am conscious and do look out for these issues online and there are a few things I do to protect myself from this type of filtering as much as possible:

  1. Deliberately diversify what content you read and the sources you read that content from;
  2. Be judicious on what sites you enable 3-party cookies for to limit targeted ads and content; and
  3. Use private or ‘incognito’ mode on your browser so your session data doesn’t persist.


(Grossman, M). 2018. PARTISAN MEDIA AND POLITICAL DISTRUST. Knight Foundation White Paper.



For the main task this week I am going to focus my discussion on the popular communications app, Discord (  Discord is a chat-based application that found it’s roots in the online gaming industry.  What started out as a place for gamers to chat, socialize and share common interests has quickly grown in popularity.  As the pandemic forced the modern world into their homes for all aspects for their lives, the site has naturally grown in popularity and is now targeting new demographics to be purposed for all communication needs (similar to other competitors like Slack).  The duality of the benefits of such a site and the dangers are blatantly displayed on their main web-page with the slogan, “Create an invite-only place where you belong”.

Discord is a communications application that has the functionality of both a social site and social set.  Discord works by setting up servers for a particular topic or theme.  Administrators can make these servers either public or private and they support rich text chat and imaging functionalities as well as voice/video conferencing.  Each server can support multiple channels have very robust administration features.

So on the one hand, having public interest servers that people can join is obviously not a new phenomenon, but one that Discord does very well, leveraging sleek design for a great user experience.  This site though, suffers from what all forum and communication-based sites suffer from: subjective governance from the moderators of these public servers.  While some servers may have a very robust ‘terms of service’, most do not and what is acceptable or not acceptable can be very vague.  This has led to numerous accounts of people being banned from servers for not adhering to the ‘status quo’ or for not being aligned with the views or position of the majority of users subscribed to a given server.  A quick search on Reddit will provide many colorful examples (here’s one such example).

Another noted issue of the site is the lack of transparency with the data that it collects on it’s users.  The site collects a vast amount of data sets on its users.  Legally they are allowed to do this as it is stated in their terms and conditions disclaimer, but let’s be honest, no every really reads those.  Users can request access to the data that it collects on them, but getting to this feature on the application is buried in a series of nonintuitive clicks on their options menu.  A little more transparency on this front would be a far more ethical approach to the UX experience.  An informal study of this issue can be found online [1].

One thing that could make Discord a little more of an equitable and transparent place across all of its servers, is a unified code of conduct and acceptable use policy.  To take this a step further, third party and unbiased employees could moderate the servers to ensure each was governed accordingly.  While this wouldn’t really cure the issue that Discord does facilitate echo chambers, it would make having healthy and constructive criticisms and disagreements more natural and readily occurring.

Of course, the draw backs of doing something like this are fiscal for starters.  It was cost money to higher these moderators so the company is already not inclined to do it.  Additionally, it would detract from the culture and nature of how sites like this work and could potentially hurt adaptation and over all membership of its userbase.

Ultimately, there is no easy or quick answer to the issue of echo chambers online.  Echo chambers have and always will exist, both in the real world and online.  What is needed is the building of sites and technology with ethically based principles to address the damaging effect the internet can have to exasperate echo chambers at a scale never before seen.


[1] Gavin Sekhon UX Designer Discord. Accessed November 11, 2021.


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