August 14, 2018How #DiversifyYourFeed shatters Twitter echo chambers

#DiversifyYourFeed is a tool that analyses people’s Twitter feeds to reveal the gender balance of who they follow. In an age of echo chambers and concerns over biased social-media algorithms, it’s giving people agency to look beyond what’s familiar to them. We discover the insights behind the innovation and understand how the tool could help people see through Twitter’s algorithmic mist.

Safa Amirbayat

The result of a collaboration between ACNE and Deloitte Digital, #DiversifyYourFeed helps reduce the lack of diversity built into social media algorithms. By inputting a person’s Twitter username the tool can work out the gender ratio of accounts that user follows, compare the result to the average user, and suggest other accounts to follow in order to rebalance the feed towards gender equity. Instead of moralising, #DiversifyYourFeed argues that, actually, diversity is in everyone’s interest – citing studies that claim access to a broad range of views enhances decision making, and that diverse businesses earn larger profits. In an interview with Canvas8, Tom Chatfield, author of Critical Thinking, says: “The unfortunate thing [with algorithms] is [that] you’ll always end up with a white, middle-class, middle-aged man generator.”

With plans to expand to tool to analyse Instagram and LinkedIn feeds, #DiversifyYourFeed is a response to people’s worries about the AI underpinning algorithmic bias, which in turn reinforces our unconscious personal biases. Some 70% of people harbour fears of AI, according to an international survey conducted by Pega. By helping people rebalance their timelines, #DiversifyYourFeed – like Google’s Teachable Machine – is giving people control and agency over a technology they often feel powerless to; in addition it lets people (at least temporarily) rebalance social media algorithms that create ideological echo chambers across lines of gender, race and political persuasion.

On a broader level, #DiversifyYourFeed is helping Gens Y and Z, who have witnessed the Everyday Sexism, #BlackLivesMatter and Occupy Wall Street movements play out online and IRL become more rounded people with a knowledge, or at least an awareness of different perspectives beyond those they can directly relate to. In the same vein as #DiversifyYourFeed, Lifefaker similarly is attempting to modify people’s behaviour on social media by highlighting the absurdity of social media perfectionism on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.

Safa Amirbayat is a junior behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. An economics graduate from University College London with a specialism in industrial organisation and behavioural economics, he can be found boxing or reading a novel outside of work.

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