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News Filter Bubble

 
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Lasairfiona



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:20 pm    Post subject: News Filter Bubble Reply with quote

Eli Pariser TED speech on Filter Bubbles
This is very interesting and about 9 minutes.

The Telegraph wrote:
The 'filter bubble' is a sinister phenomenon. But Eli Pariser's alternative sounds even worse

Eli Pariser was looking at Facebook one day when he noticed something peculiar. On his news feed, where he usually enjoyed reading through his friends’ comments and links, there was something missing. “I’ve always gone out of my way to meet conservatives,” says Pariser, a liberal tech entrepreneur from New York. “So I was kind of surprised when I noticed that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed.”
Facebook had quietly scrubbed the feed clean of anything Right-wing – nothing Republican, nothing anti-Obama, was getting through. So what was going on?

“It turns out,” says Pariser, “that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on. And it noticed that I was clicking more on my liberal friends’ links than on my conservative friends’ links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared.”

In other words, Facebook decided that Pariser’s conservative friends weren’t relevant. It didn’t matter that he liked to hear their point of view occasionally; because he clicked on their links less frequently, they had been exiled from his online world.

In his new book, it is this world that Eli Pariser names the “filter bubble” – a place where a hidden code decides what you can and can’t see.
Pariser speaks matter-of-factly about this sinister phenomenon. “There’s a shift in how information is flowing online,” he told the TED conference in California in May. “It’s invisible. And it if we don’t pay attention to it, it could be a real problem.”

It is not always a problem though. On some websites, “algorithmic editing” – the hidden code at work – is reasonably harmless. You might be shopping on Amazon, looking at books written by Malcolm Gladwell and then a few biographies of Mozart.

At this point, Amazon’s algorithm decides that you might enjoy Alex Ross’s books, and it suggests them in “the more items to consider” section. Why? Because Ross writes about the history of music and – like Gladwell – also writes for the New Yorker. Amazon joins the dots so you don’t have to.
But take a different example. Let’s say you run a Google search for “Egypt” on your PC – and a friend of yours does exactly the same, using their MacBook in Edinburgh. You’ll get the same results, won’t you?
Well, surprisingly no. Google can tell where you are, what internet browser you’re using, and the make of your computer. The website picks up dozens of signals that you don’t even know you’re sending – and it engineers what it thinks is the best result.

When Pariser compared the results from two friends who entered the “Egypt” Google search, he was staggered. One saw information about the political crisis and the protests in Tahrir Square. The other, a list of travel agents and factbooks about the country.

It is here – in the political sphere – that invisible algorithms have disturbing implications. Websites like Yahoo News are already “personalising” their coverage, and others like the Huffington Post are flirting with similar technology. Imagine this: you search for “David Cameron” on a supposedly impartial news site. But it knows you have just been browsing LabourList.org, so the results – though you may not realise it – are massively biased. The website knows what you want to read, so it spoon-feeds you more of the same.

It might spoon-feed you some junk, too, just for the fun of it. Your “future aspirational self”, as Pariser calls it, may want to learn about David Cameron’s health policy. But the website knows your “impulsive present self” would like to read about Justin Bieber. So it diverts your attention to his latest interview. More Bieber, less Cameron – that’s the filter bubble at work.

So is there a solution to the filter bubble? Pariser thinks so. But his solution is perhaps more sinister than the phenomenon itself.
The problem, he thinks, is that we’ve removed the gatekeepers to the world’s information and news. Before the invention of the internet, we had human editors with “embedded ethics”. Now we’ve passed the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones – but they, of course, lack the ethics.

But here is his proposed solution (aimed directly at Google at Facebook):
to make sure that these algorithms have encoded in them a sense of the public life. A sense of civic responsibility. We need you to make sure that they’re transparent enough that we can see what the rules are that determine what gets through our filters. And we need you to give us some control so that we can decide what gets through and what doesn’t.
Along with relevant, then, the hidden codes must also focus on what’s important, uncomfortable, challenging, other points of view.

Pariser received a roar of approval and a standing ovation from his Californian audience when he concluded with these thoughts in May. But though his plea for transparency is commendable, is there not something deeply troubling about the notion of ethical algorithms? Whose duty would it be embed civic responsibility in these codes? And exactly whose idea of civic responsibility would be imposed? It shrieks “thought police” to me.
Arguably, Facebook, Google and others deserve Pariser’s thorough treatment. And their online consumers should demand more transparency. But if the alternative to the filter bubble is an internet edited by the New York Times, you can count me out.


So, where do the sinfesters get their news? Where do you get your news that will disagree with your preferred news? I really thought Google News would be enough to give me a fairly rounded viewpoint but I guess not. How should on combat that?

How should editors, both human and virtual, handle this problem in the future?

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Willem



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I basically cycle between the Guardian, Al Jazeera English and De Morgen (for Belgian news) - as far as news sites go.

Other than that, I get a lot of my news from the Something Awful forums. The advantage of this is that there's never a topic that doesn't have several views represented in the threads. And there's always someone that's an expert on the subject, willing to share that info. It also has the tendency to shed light on topics I'm fairly unfamiliar with or which don't get any attention from other sites or news sources. (see: their excellent thread on the US prison system or the various effort-threads in GBS/D&D)

That said, I have no idea where I'm supposed to get decent coverage on sub-Saharan Africa, Russia/Kaukasus-region, Latin-America, South-East Asia, ... The other sites touch upon the subjects, but not as much as I'd like.

More on this subject: I doubt there's a lot that can be done about it. Maybe an international news-site, but you obviously can't crowd-source it unless you want to run into the same problems Wikipedia has. Then there's the problem of ideology...
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mouse



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i don't get a lot of news online- i read the nytimes on the web, but mostly the opinion section. i get my news primarily from npr.

and it seems to me that virtual editors, at any rate, _shouldn't_ handle it. i mean the unseen "editors" in google and facebook. because that is where the censoring is coming in - the news you want may be out there, but if google doesn't let you see it, what good is it?

this is pretty outrageous, although it once again confirms my determination to have nothing to do with facebook.
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Michael



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just make stuff up when I'm drunk and then read it in the morning

the comics aren't very good though, and one or two employers have complained when I came in smelling of stale beer and newspaper print again
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Snorri



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I get my news exclusively from "this bloke I met at the bar".


He is a fountain of information.
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Mini J



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And I get all my news from Snorri. It's double-reliable!
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Thy Brilliance



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:25 am    Post subject: Translating languages is the only real obstacle Reply with quote

Why are you using Google to look for your news when it is far simpler to collect a rss feed from every possible news organization around the world, and filter it yourself?
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Sam the Eagle



Joined: 02 Oct 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like Willem, I read various online newspapers editions (French, English, sometimes Japanese) for my daily needs; sometime I dig in a bit if the piece looks too much one sided or if I need to find a piece equivalent to one found in French that I want to post in here. Aside from that, one weekly newspaper.


The sticky point of online edition is how to confirm/validate a bit of news. I've seen various people arguing that information validated a posteriori is almost as valid as one checked a priori. I beg to differ; if you're fluent enough to read various languages, it'll be easy enough to find that Wikipedia alone is a mountain of various views each of which edited many times as the "proper" way to look at things. In other words, our respective viewpoints doesn't meet eye to eye.

I can't think of an answer to that problem. Best option would be to remember, or be aware of, that each and every time you read something, the data included is manipulated/edited.
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