What is a Filter Bubble?
Nowadays Google and other search engines attempt to pre-empt what you want when you are searching. Geo-Targeting is one example of this, but the search engine will also try to guess what you want, and tailor your results, by your past search history.
A filter bubble is intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption. Websites make these assumptions based on the information related to the user, such as former click behavior, browsing history, search history, and location. For that reason, the websites are more likely to present only information that will abide by the user’s past activity. A filter bubble, therefore, can cause users to get significantly less contact with contradicting viewpoints, causing the user to become intellectually isolated.
Personalized search results from Google and personalized news streams from Facebook are two perfect examples of this phenomenon.
The goal of personalization is to present the end-user with the most relevant information possible, but it can also cause a distorted view of reality because it prioritizes information the individual has already expressed interest in. The data used to personalize user experience and create an insulating bubble comes from many sources, including the user’s search history, browsing choices and previous interaction with web pages.
Filter bubbles, which affect an individual’s online advertisements, social media newsfeeds, and web searches, essentially insulate the person from outside influences and reinforce what the individual already thinks. The word bubble, in this context, is a synonym for isolation; its context comes from a medical device called the isolator, a plastic bubble that was infamously used to sequester a young patient with immunodeficiencies in the 1970s.
Default settings are convenient, but they can also skew an individual’s perception of what information the rest of the world sees. It is recommended that users periodically review the privacy and personalized search settings of the browsers and social media websites they use to prevent query results from becoming unnecessarily discriminatory and newsfeeds from being weaponized.
The term filter bubble was coined by internet activist Eli Pariser in his book, “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You” (2011).
Pariser relates a case in which a user searches for “BP” on Google and gets investment news regarding British Petroleum as the search result, while another user receives details on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for the same keyword. These two search results are noticeably different and could affect the searchers’ impression of the news surrounding the British Petroleum company. According to Pariser, this bubble impact could have adverse effects on social discourse. However, others say the impact is negligible.
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