What you see on your Facebook newsfeed and Google search result is not an accurate representation of reality. Thanks to Facebook and google’s complex algorithms, they filter and show us only what we want. This can have a large effect on our lives and even our political views in today’s world. According to an article written for HuffingtonPost by Megan Anderle in 2015, people take what they see on the internet to be true, so many may not even realize this filter bubble they are being put into. These websites also don’t make it very easy to get around the algorithms choosing. As we learned in class on February 18th, “Filter bubbles are created by algorithms that respond to our characteristics to create a reality just for us.” These filter bubbles are created by the Facebook algorithm. According to the study “Uncovering Algorithms: Looking Inside the Facebook News Feed,” 62% of people had no idea their newsfeed was created just for them. This lack of knowledge is a scary fact in and of itself. Anderle goes on in her article to discuss the algorithms effect on political views. Facebook’s newsfeed come from comment you make, timeline’s you visit, and likes you make. If you interact with only left wing politics and comment only on those posts, you are going to see posts about those views more then the contradicting. It is important that it more advertised that Facebook alters what we see via their algorithm.
We need to know these filter bubbles exist because as humans we like to avoid opinions that don’t go with ours. We don’t like to engage with people who will pick apart why we are Republican and why that is bad. According to a Fortune magazine article written by Matthew Ingram, Facebook did a study in 2015 and placed the blame of the filter bubble on the individual, stating they choose what they want to see. However he points out that the algorithm and people’s choices are intertwined, and that these algorithms magnify people’s ability to avoid. Taking this back to what Anderle’s article, I think it can be said that even if people themselves choose to engage with their left-winged friends, Facebook’s algorithm further perpetuates that later and filters their newsfeed to show more of those left-winged posts. Which once again needs to be made more public so people are aware.
After discussing Facebook’s impact Anderle goes on to talk about Google’s impact on our political views. She reports “Google’s search algorithm can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more — up to 80 percent in some demographic groups — with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated, according to experiments by researchers Robert Epstein and Ronald E. Robertson. This 20% could cause major repercussions and dictate an election. This could be really impactful because of the point that these filter bubbles are constructed and many people don’t have any idea they are individualized to them. According to google.com their “algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that make it possible to guess what you might really be looking for.” These clues range from your region to computer type to recent clicks. All of these can alter someone’s search engine when they start googling things about an upcoming election. Anderle writes that while Google may not be as manipulative as Facebook, it is still something to be aware of. I believe filter bubbles will exist as long as the internet does, and that is okay. However internet users need to be aware that the reality they are seeing is created just for them and that there is more going on than they see.
Algorithms – Inside Search – Google. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2016, from https://www.google.com/insidesearch/howsearchworks/algorithms.html
Anderle, M. (2015, October 15). How Facebook and Google’s Algorithms Are Affecting Our Political Viewpoints. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-anderle/how-facebook-and-googles-_b_8282612.html
Ingram, M. (2015, May 07). Facebook ‘filter bubble’ study raises more questions than it answers. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from http://fortune.com/2015/05/07/facebook-filter-bubble-doubts/
Miller, B. (2016, February 18). The Shallows (PowerPoint Slides). Retrieved from https://ay15.moodle.umn.edu/course/view.php?id=12439.