Filter Bubbles

Filter bubbles can decide what you do and don’t see that’s going on in the world. There could be a crisis in Egypt, yet Google may only show you great Egyptian travel destinations. What is a “filter bubble”? A filter bubble is a result of website algorithms which can decide what a user does and doesn’t see on the internet. Based on things such as your past searches, your location, the type of computer you’re using, and what links you click on, websites such as Facebook and Google are able to tailor the information that pops up on your feed. Is this a good or a bad thing?

Some would agrue that this is a bad technique and that the idea of a filter bubble is leaving us uninformed about what’s actually going on in different topics. Users can feel “intellectually isolated” when they are not able to see opposing viewpoints to their own ideas. For example, Eli Pariser is very much a progressive. As time has gone by, he has begun to realize that he rarely, if ever, sees posts from his conservative friends. He has also realized that he sees an unusual amount of links for liberal articles. Eli is someone who likes to be educated, and enjoys hearing what other poeple have to say. He wishes that the filter bubble didn’t exist for this reason.

You can see a similar example to Eli’s Egypt one here, except using BP as a search instead of Egypt.

However, if you are a person who doesn’t care to hear about other ideas or views, the filter bubble may be for you. This way you don’t have to scroll through unnecessary links and articles until you find what you actually want to read.

It is hard to say how I would respond to the issue of filter bubbles if I were in Facebook or Google’s shoes. It is difficult to think about when some people may enjoy having information given specific to them, while others may want some variety in their feed. However, it is important to address the issue if you are one of those companies. I believe that a good alternative would be to have a filter bubble option in both Facebook and Google. This way, one could decide whether the information that they see is tailored to personal interests or more variable. It would be a great tool to be able to turn off and on. For example, in daily life, it may be convenient to have a filter bubble option. However, once you are doing a research paper and need tons of sources, it would be helpful to be able to turn off the filter bubble in order to have non biased sources. If the filter bubble is in place, I would decide what information goes on a feed or search results based on what users have searched and what they have clicked on in the past. I do not believe that location should be a big factor in the decision, because so many people travel or have to live in places that don’t necessarily match who they are or their interests.

How will companies like Google and Facebook deal with the idea of a filter bubble? The answer is unclear. As you can see, it can be both beneficial while also very isolating to users. This is something that modern comapnies are going to have to really think about and this idea could change the future of how we receive and get information.