Medium Response #6 — Filtering
COMS490 Sp16

One of the primary goals social movements must achieve in order to propagate their agendas is awareness. As we discussed in class, simply “spreading the word” is a mainstay of social movements, as spreading ideas and sharing a story or mission is essential to convert people to any certain cause.

Filtering stands as an opponent to this goal. Whether or not filtering is enacted due to simple attention-centered algorithms or for something more nefarious is relatively less important than the fact that filtering prevents the spread of awareness. Simply, filtering prevents certain groups of users from ever even glimpsing topics they might have otherwise found interesting or felt strongly about — negatively impacting social movements by failing to capture the attention of an otherwise potential audience.

While of course it must be maintained that every situation is subjective, I do believe that generally speaking algorithmic filtering largely impacts social movements in a negative fashion.

As mentioned in the article, algorithmic filtering can be compared (subjectively) to censoring of information — insofar as withholding or blocking information circulation is concerned.

I believe this is highly representative of the commercialization occurring within the virtual sphere — companies and conglomerates operating through backstage channels (at times even in plain sight), influencing digital spaces for their own best interests: money. Due to the Internet’s increasing use by mainstream America, capitalist consumer/production thought has trickled into a space that was once meant to be a place of neutrality and information-sharing. What can be seen now is a clear bid for control (perhaps, shaping?) of information by companies that receive large amounts of “hits” or site visits. This filtering is also employed by social networking sites, further preventing entire networks of individuals from experiencing the “net neutral” ideal of the past.

To close, I would again maintain that algorithmic filtering (subjectively speaking) can be compared to a form of censorship, due to the fact that it prevents information from being circulated. I am of the opinion that the ideal of the past should be revitalized and defended, though I must maintain I cannot offer a suitable course of action to achieve said goal. Unfortunately, America’s obsession with money has afforded giant corporations another piece of our social sphere, the virtual space, and has already begun to work its sticky fingers into a place we once hoped would remain free of the biases evident in the physical realm.

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