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Journalism networks in twitter causing a gendered echo chamber

One can form a network out of Twitter interactions, with nodes being tweets and the edges being retweets or replies. A study by Nikki Usher found that among journalists who operate around the US federal government, classified as Beltway journalists, there were more male journalists, with more followers, and that these male journalists were more likely to interact with each other. According to Usher’s study, when a male journalist is replying to another Beltway journalist, he will reply to another male 91.5 percent of the time. When he is retweeting another Beltway journalist, that journalist is male 74 percent of the time. Female journalists tend to reply to other women 72 percent of the time, but are more likely to retweet male journalists 60 percent of the time.

In our first lecture we talked about an example of a network showing the interactions between liberal and conservative blogs. The same pattern seems to be occurring in this Twitter example. It is concerning, because if this kind of echo chamber is forming within the media, it can affect the way certain issues are portrayed, especially issues that have to do with women and women’s rights. The effect of male journalists bolstering other male journalists is even more perpetuated due to the disparity of followers between male and female journalists, as well as the fact that men send 38 percent more unprompted tweets per account on average, compared to women. If we were to represent this network in a way where edges are strong or weak depending on the number of people the interaction has reached, men would generally have more strong ties; the network would then further inflate the interactions between men because of the principle of strong triadic closure.

 

Usher, Nikki, et al. “Twitter Makes It Worse: Political Journalists, Gendered Echo Chambers, and the Amplification of Gender Bias.” The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol. 23, no. 3, 2018, pp. 324–344., doi:10.1177/1940161218781254.

Yong, Ed. “The Male Echo Chamber of Political Twitter.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 26 June 2018, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/the-male-echo-chamber-of-political-twitter/563720/.

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