Guido has written previously about how we are living in our own filter bubbles, both on social media and offline. Demos take us inside the echo chamber with their report “Talking To Ourselves”. The study confirms what many have observed for years: there is a huge echo chamber effect in political discussion online, meaning people tend to share and engage with news sources and individuals who share their own beliefs, and shun those with opposing views. Demos analysed the Twitter accounts of 2,000 users, finding:
“supporters of UK political parties tend to talk to themselves online, to read and share news that is ideologically in tune with their party and discuss issues on which they hold strong ideological views”
The research shows SNP and UKIP supporters have a particularly strong aversion to engaging with people or organisations who hold opposing views. Labour supporters are most likely to share links from the BBC, Guardian, Mirror, Indy and HuffPo. Tories seem less stuck in their echo chamber, sharing links from the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph and Mail. All groups tend shares news from sites aligned with their party affiliation – the further from the centre their affiliation, the deeper the echo chamber becomes…
This is replicated in the analysis of retweets. Labour, SNP and UKIP supporters retweet their fellow party supporters the vast majority of the time. Tories retweet fellow Tories less, though still more than they do anyone else.
The data found @GuidoFawkes is the sixth most retweeted political site among the survey group, ahead of even the BBC and ITV. Unsurprisingly our retweeters are more likely to come from parties on the right:
The report concludes:
“Compromise, the ability to process a diverse range of opinion and, above all, an acceptance of some kind of shared reality and truth are central to a functioning democracy. All are threatened by the echo chamber effect.”
As our information sources become ever more filtered and self-socialised this will mean that we live in our own social media echo chambers. Is this a significant social problem? As we have seen recently, it means that after elections and referendums the losers are unpleasantly surprised…
These pictures of McDonnell picking up the mace were not originally* broadcast and have come out from the raw video feed – much to the annoyance of the parliamentary authorities. Why the parliamentary authorities think it is up to them to censor what the people see going on in their parliament is beyond Guido. They work for you, the workings of parliament are not for them to reveal when they choose, it is the right of the people in a democracy to see into the democratic forum. An open democracy does not hide its workings from the voters.
Elsewhere the parliamentary authorities are suppressing full disclosure of MPs expenses. Jacqui Smith has (without reference to parliament) given herself the right to read Guido’s email without a warrant, yet MPs in contrast are changing the Freedom of Information laws to allow them to obscure our view of their petty fiddles. There is no other credible explanation. They claim that it would be too expensive to account for all expenditure – try putting that on your tax return. Some MPs are taking it upon themselves to voluntarily publish ALL their expenses, some will not, draw your own conclusions. If they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide…
Guido remembers attending a Demos event last year where the new campaign commissar was giving his thoughts. With all this talk of an early election in the air the boys and girls at CCHQ and Cowley Street would do well to dig out his “Serving a Cause, Serving a Community“ Demos pamphlet from last year. In it he urged the Labour party to work in partnership rather than parallel with like minded organisations including trade unions. Gordon is spinning today that he wants to reduce the power of the unions through one man, one vote.
He wrote about the party to becoming a “community hub” creating space for shared discussion with social interest groups who will have input into local party campaigns using blogs and chat rooms to encourage debate with those preferring not to go to formal party meetings. LabourHome is their best semi-unofficial attempt at this, and it still shaded by ConservativeHome.
He also claimed he wanted to throw off the control-freak shackles and loosen the rigid party structures to allow issues to be discussed informally and he wanted to decentralise professional party staff resources from national to local level. Once again the Tories have the edge here, they are far less control-freaky and they already have their Northern call-centre operation with regional offices benefiting from Lord Ashcroft’s cash.
If the Demos pamphlet was Douglas Alexander’s job application it will take time to achieve his goals for Labour. That together with their cash crisis, makes Guido doubtful they will go for an early election.
So it is interesting to see that Demos have arranged a Valentine’s day lunchtime love-in with David Willets on the New Tory buzzwords social responsibility. Not sure who is wooing who here – the brand decontaminating Tories, or Demos who want to distance themselves from their Blairite New Labour heritage. The important thing is not so much what they are saying, as who is saying what to whom as the tectonic plates shift.
From: Guido Fawkes
To: FoI Unit HM Treasury
7 February, 2007
This is an FoI request concerning an email sent by Wilf Stevenson, of the Smith Institute, last month to a number of persons based at at HM Treasury. The email was also addressed to staff at some leading think-tanks including the the Smith Institute, IPPR and Demos. In it I understand that Wilf Stevenson explained that Gordon Brown was interested in gathering in policy ideas for his administration and that he would like to co-ordinate this activity.
I believe that Ed Balls and John Healey were also recipients of the email.
The activities of the Smith Institute with regard to policy formulation at HM Treasury are of great public interest. Please could you, in the first instance, provide me with a copy of this email and any other emails sent by Wilf Stevenson to persons based at HM Treasury.
Guido Fawkes Esq.