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Eli Pariser: Internet's democratizing potential is derailed by invisible algorithmic personalization

"A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa." - Eli Parser's paraphrase of Facebook's driving algorithm. 

I find TED Talks to be almost unfailingly signficant in some aspect of a given topic's presentation. That is the objective, after all, to use Internet power to inform the world of great ideas.

And, so, it's blunt non-irony to watch MoveOn's Eli Pariser calling the gatekeeping innovators of the Internet to task for having inverted that power. Instead, he says that a 'filter bubble' is fostering global myopia through a process that uses the hidden algorithmic analysis of individual web navigation patterns to personalize the websurfing experience.

Real irony is obvious in the example he chose to illustrate the problem, a comparison of the very different results obtained by two friends of his social network in identical Google searches of Egypt's popular uprising.

I'm typically willing to beat up, on one hand, on commercial broadcast media (and many print relatives, as well) for the woeful job done of informing the electorate. With the other hand I find the consuming electorate such an inviting target exactly for the deliberate choices they make.

There is no contest, here. Pariser is right on the money to point fingers of responsibility at Google and Facebook for contributing to a sort of global ignorance by balkanizing our common understanding through the passive personalization of 'my own private Idaho', a place that I don't know that I've chosen.

Keep friends close, and enemies closer, and be sure that until you know who is who, known friends are aware that someone is, indeed, filtering their everyday activities and changing them.

It's time for the gatekeepers to change this.

 

Comments

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GreyHawk on May 20, 2011 - 16:58

 

The capacity of the internet to provide boundless information, and the capacity of our electronic environment to provide filtering for content, is wonderful...provided you can bypass the filters and/or alter them.

Otherwise, having someone ELSE dictate what is filtered, how and when...well, that's just bogus.

Great catch - thanks for posting it, DD. :)

 

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