by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 25
March 2021

What is your ideological blindspot?

A new app that looks at Twitter interactions gives some clues
by Peter Franklin

Are you hearing only one side of the story? For Twitter users, there’s a new way to check. It’s called Blindspotter — and it’s free and easy to use. You just enter the name of your Twitter account and it analyses your interactions with other Twitter accounts (or at least those recognised as “news sources”).

It then tells you what percentage of those interactions are with Left-wing, centrist and Right-wing news sources.

You can do this for any Twitter account, not just your own. For instance, here’s the readout for Donald Trump Jr. (his father not being on Twitter these days):

It won’t come as any surprise that Don Junior leans to the Right. Joe Biden, on the other hand, leans to the Left. In fact, he doesn’t seem to interact with any Right-wing news sources at all:

But how are these results calculated? Blindspotter is a service offered by Ground News, which offers some explanation as to the internal workings.

For a start there’s a database of “2063 news sources” of which 878 are allocated to Left, 571 to the Right and 614 to the centre. The system then goes through the last 3,200 tweets of an account and tots-up all the interactions with recognised news sources.

The following gives an idea what they mean by an interaction:

“…all interactions are not equal, as people are likely more hesitant to tweet/retweet a piece of news than they are to like it. We place the following weights on interactions with news content: liked (1), tweeted (2), retweeted (1.5), quoted (1.45), replied (1.85).”
- Ground News

Checking my own Twitter account, I’m told that my news diet is overwhelmingly centrist. This makes sense, because most of my news source interactions on Twitter are me tweeting out content from UnHerd (which has been listed as centrist news source).

In any case, I’m told that I have “a mostly balanced news diet” — in contrast to Trump who “may have a blindspot on the Left” and Biden “who may have a blindspot on the Right”.

However, I wonder if this might reveal that Blindspotter has a blindspot of its own. Given that almost all my news source interactions are in the centre, shouldn’t I be warned that I may have a blindspot on the Left and on the Right?

Centrists can be every bit as trammelled in their thinking as Lefties and Righties are. That’s especially true in those cases where centrism means the bog standard views of a complacent establishment.

That said, Blindspotter is a fascinating tool that serves a useful purpose. It prompts us to stop-and-think about who we’re letting live in our heads — and provides some idea about who’s living in theirs.

Join the discussion

  • It’s good to hear another mention of the Centrists, who are becoming so “trammelled”, as you put it, that a description of “bigoted” might be coming over the horizon towards some of them.
    I’m another one with no accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Tic-Tok, Instagram, or anything else. How on earth do I manage?
    I remember, I manage by just being me, making up my own mind, and being prepared to change it occasionally. It used to be called “thinking”.

  • I would suggest (but only from my personal experience) that in older people most users of Facebook, Instagram, etc are women. In the younger generation it is virtually everyone.
    Another young versus old thing. Definitely not for older men who want to show how self-sufficient they are, how they don’t need to be constantly in touch with family and friends.

  • I think it depends on your definition of older and younger.
    I used to have a facebook account – only because I wanted to know what it was all about, I deleted it after unfriending everyone, deleting all my pictures, editing all my posts, and changing my name to Gerry Adams, why? Thats a different story.
    I digress… my impression of Facebook is that its a distinctly middle aged thing. The old don’t have an account because they had a life before it, the young dont because they have TikTok and Instagram.
    Social media is very much a generational thing so you can only ever use it to communicate with people the same age as yourself.

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