Technically Social
Published in

Technically Social

Twitter’s Timeline Algorithm Buries External Links

New research on Twitter’s timeline curation algorithm sheds light on how it shapes what we’re exposed to.

Original photo by Sneha Cecil on Unsplash, styled by the author via Deep Dream
  • ↘️ Showed fewer external links,
  • ✨ Elevated lots of “suggested” tweets (from non-followed accounts),
  • ↗️ Showed a greater diversity of sources,
  • 📊 Slightly shifted exposure to different topics, and
  • 🔊 Had a slight partisan “echo chamber” effect


Main Findings

We tested Twitter’s algorithm by creating a group of “puppet” accounts, then comparing their “latest tweets” chronological timelines to their “top tweets” algorithmic timelines.

↘️ Fewer External Links

✨ Lots of “Suggested” Tweets

↗️ Increased Source Diversity

The “filter bubble” metaphor is popular, but our study adds to growing counter-evidence: Twitter’s algorithm increased the number of accounts in the timeline. Photo by Marc Sendra Martorell on Unsplash

📊 Slight Shift in Topics

  1. A cluster of tweets containing political information (e.g. about the president’s response to the pandemic)
  2. A cluster containing health information (e.g. about risk factors)
  3. A cluster containing economic information (e.g. about GDP or job loss)
  4. A cluster about fatalities (e.g. death toll reports)

🔊 Slight Partisan Echo Chamber Effect

Our evidence suggests the echo chamber, rather than the filter bubble, may be a more accurate metaphor for the effect of social media algorithms. Photo by Sin Flow on Unsplash

So What?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jack Bandy

PhD student studying AI, ethics, and media. Trying to share things I learn in plain english. 🐦 @jackbandy