Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Problem With Filter Bubbles

          My internet activity and search history often contain things that show off my liberal ideals, my taste in clothing and music, my desire to buy a dog, and other things that make up my personality, my wants, and my desires. My history online shows large parts of my personality, and because of that I’m being exposed to new things I haven’t seen before that fit into the same categories as my past internet searches. New left wing liberal news sites and pages dedicated to my favorite shows and music are being recommended to me on Facebook, new adds will pop up for the stores I have purchased clothing from, petitions and protests will show up on my feed and in my email based on my personal beliefs and ideologies, and even new show recommendations will pop up based on past searches. All of this does often expose me to more things that I like and find interesting, after all they are going off of what I like and believe in, but what they aren’t doing is exposing me to things that are outside my usual bubble. I am being closed in with things that I already relate with and I’m not being exposed to anything really new. Even the news I see online is skewed in my liberal favor, but sometimes I want to see what the other side has to say too. My filter bubble doesn’t allow this, and in reality it’s a big hindrance because it’s so isolating.
Filter bubbles often keep people in their own personalized world that conform to their searches, likes, and personal beliefs, just as mine does. This can have very negative effects for people because it keeps them disconnected from certain things. People often won’t see outside ideas, or news that isn’t skewed toward their political beliefs that have been recorded online through their search history. The public is becoming separated from the information that disagrees with their viewpoints, isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles. When this happens people are exposed, often to the extreme, to things that can be very polarizing of other ideas that an individual may not really know about, or it can spread information that isn’t always true. For example, a known conservative who frequents fox news may be later exposed to articles considered to be “extreme right” that claim Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff are running a child sex slave operation in the basement of a basement-less pizza shop (#pizzagate). This extreme and crazy idea, along with many others similar in absurdity, might be believed by someone because citizens are being shoved this information constantly based off of their past searches. The same can also be said for the liberal side of the argument, I myself have often seen articles on Facebook that contain blatant lies about the conservative side. I’m not going to believe something that’s obviously fake with no evidence to back it up, but that doesn’t mean other people who see the same articles won’t believe it. Often times we are being shown these things and nothing else, which for some can make them very close minded and isolated from another reality they may become blind to.
With the new law making it legal for internet companies to sell anyone’s browser history, I fear that filter bubble consequences will only get worse. Companies can buy our internet search history and target us much more easily, making isolation almost inevitable. This won’t give anyone much of a chance to be exposed to things outside of their filter bubble, which will isolate thousands without them even knowing.
Politically, I fear this will prove to divide people more than they already are. People may be exposed to more radical left or right propaganda that separates citizens between their political parties, dividing the country even more than it is today.Looking past the political argument, this law also puts vulnerable people at risk. For example, if a family is struggling financially their struggles will most likely show up on their internet search history one way or another. This could lead that family to be targeted by money scams, credit card companies, instant win popup scams, and other harmful things that could do a lot of damage to unsuspecting citizens. This filter bubbling of citizens causes more damage than good, and this new law will make things much worse. Filter bubbles may seem like positive things for some because it exposes them to things they already like and agree with, but in the grand scheme of things they are damaging and too isolating for too many people.


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