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Experiment bursts Facebook bubble of voters on left and right




Facebook logos are pictured on the screens of a smartphone (R), and a laptop computer, in central London on November 21, 2016.
Facebook logos are pictured on the screens of a smartphone (R), and a laptop computer, in central London on November 21, 2016.
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

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In grappling with understanding the divided electorate, an experiment conducted by The Guardian newspaper took five left-leaning Facebook users and five right-leaning ones who agreed to take a scroll on the other side during the final month of the election campaign.

From The Guardian: 

We created two Facebook accounts from scratch. “Rusty Smith”, our right-wing avatar, liked a variety of conservative news sources, organizations, and personalities, from the Wall Street Journal and The Hoover Institution to Breitbart News and Bill O’Reilly. “Natasha Smith”, our left-wing persona, preferred The New York Times, Mother Jones, Democracy Now and Think Progress. Rusty liked Tim Tebow and the NRA. Natasha liked Colin Kaepernick and 350.org.

Participants were so disturbed by their experience not all of them could stick with it through November 8.  After being exposed to the right-wing feed, Alphonso Pines said, "You might as well have been waterboarding a brother."

For conservative voter Trent Loos of central Nebraska, he was shocked see good news related to Hillary Clinton for once. "[Previously] twelve people have shared a story with me about the Hillary Clinton bus dumping human waste into the sewer system,” adding, “I never see positive stuff about Hillary Clinton. I didn’t know that existed.”

Many of the participants said details of what each group said about the other wasn't just surprising, but hurtful.

Andra Constantin of New York said, “I’m seeing a lot more hate from the liberal side… It’s all about how much of a horrible, fascist, racist, misogynist Trump is.”

Larry will talk with one of the reporters who conducted the experiment about how people were changed by their experiences. How do you try to expand your awareness beyond your bubble? How does it impact all the Americans who get a majority, if not all, of their news from social media?

Guest: 

Sam Levin, Reporter, The Guardian