News & Opinion

The Times using “filter-bubble buster” bot ahead of general election

Speaking to Digiday, The Times and The Sunday Times' William Park reveals how the publisher's new Facebook Messenger bot is providing readers with a balance of political information in the run up to polling day.

"We were interested in thinking how to deal with fake new in this election, and we wanted to find a way to deal with the issue of echo chambers", explains Park who is the social media editor of the News UK owned titles. "We want to make sure people read enough outside of what they normally read to stay well informed."

Under The Times' political sub-brand Red Box, the bot provides users with informative updates on their local constituency as well as articles and information on other political parties. The individual can also select the party they voted for in the 2015 general election to see which way they are currently leaning. Stories curated by The Times' social media team are then sent to readers at 5pm, designed to give a balanced view of the breadth of campaigning.

As Park says: "We will choose the things we think will keep [readers] best informed. You tell us who you intend to vote for or can say you don't know, tell us the constituency, and we can then use that data to serve articles that person is unlikely to have read. We won't be pushing any political agenda, but sending a mix of what we think everyone should read, and information related to their own preferences."

To track whether people find the service useful and whether they change their minds about who to vote for as a result of it, a developer will monitor the data from the bot daily. Some of this data will be fed back to users anonymously so people can see whether voters in their constituency have changed their minds. The stories included are from The Times but are also accessible to those who are not subscribers.

Source: Digiday

by Lydia O'Neill 01/06/17

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