The Facebook Friend in the Plastic Bubble

Are we filtering ourselves to death?

Every one of us has our perceptions filtered by the thousands of stories and assumptions and rituals that constitute our culture. Every one of us has held beliefs that seemed self-evidently accurate but were actually contingent elements of the time and place that produced us. This is true not just of the people reading this article, but of every person, in every era, who has been capable of perceiving anything at all. You can stretch those perceptions, expose yourself to new worldviews, learn new things, but you'll always be embedded in a cultural matrix. That's Anthropology 101.

So it's bizarre to hear pundits speaking as though these filters were invented with the Internet. Somehow the Net, the medium that has probably done more than any other to open the channels of communication between cultures, stands accused of encasing us in cocoons. This summer the accuser is Eli Pariser, board president of the liberal group MoveOn.org, who levies the charge in his much-discussed book The Filter Bubble. Thanks to changes in our online environment, he writes, "we're more and more enclosed in our own little bubbles. Democracy requires a reliance on shared facts; instead we're being offered parallel but separate universes."

Such complaints have dogged the Web for years. Way back in 1995, the attorney-activist Andrew Shapiro argued in The Nation that the online world was entering an era where "you interact only with people of your choosing and with information tailored to your desires. Don't like antiabortion activists, homeless people, news reports about murders? No problem—you need never encounter them." This was happening, Shapiro explained, because the U.S. was privatizing its part of the Internet backbone. The "crucial step," he warned, came on April 30, 1995, "when the National Science Foundation shut down its part of the Internet." Henceforth we would be at the mercy of corporate giants like AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy. To prevent such a future, he suggested, the government should "establish forums in cyberspace dedicated explicitly to public discourse....These public forums must be visible, accessible and at least occasionally unavoidable—they must be street corners in cyberspace."

By 1999, it was clear that AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy were not going to control our online experiences. It was also clear that there was far more debate online than before; indeed, debate may already have been more common and more vibrant on the Net than on the street corners that Shapiro had held up as his model. Undeterred, he published a book, The Control Revolution, that plucked one of the background complaints from his Nation article—that "speech in cyberspace can be shut out by unwilling listeners too easily"—and put those unwilling listeners rather than CompuServe at center stage. Now the great threat was "total filtering," a "new level of personal control over experience" that could "solidify a trend toward the elimination of spaces where citizens can confront and engage one another." The argument was echoed by the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who now runs the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in his 2001 tome Republic.com. Sunstein's book arrived just as the blogosphere was exploding into mainstream consciousness, creating a whole new array of "spaces where citizens can confront and engage one another."

You can see the problem here. It's not enough to observe that people might want to establish ideological and cultural cocoons online, nor even to point out that some of them have done just that. You have to remember your Anthro 101, and show that the average Net user is more cocooned now than before. Not only does that not seem to be the case, but a much bigger chrysalis—the mainstream media and its allegedly objective preconceptions—has been falling apart.

Now the fear has taken a new form. Eli Pariser's book offers a more sophisticated version of the argument, one where we're sealing ourselves in bubbles without realizing that we're doing it. Companies like Google will keep track of where we click online, companies like Facebook will keep track of who we know online, and gradually they'll tailor our online experience to what the algorithmic gnomes think we want. We won't know what we're missing, Pariser warns, because the things we'd miss will have been silently swept away. The argument neatly combines the 1995 and 1999 versions of Shapiro's story: the villain here is a quiet conspiracy between big corporations and our inner impulses.

Pariser's picture is wrong, but a lot of his details are accurate. Facebook's algorithms do determine which of your friends' status updates show up in your news feed, and the site goes out of its way to make it difficult to alter or remove those filters. Google does track the things we search for and click on, and it does use that data to shape our subsequent search results. (Some of Pariser's critics have pointed out that you can turn off Google's filters fairly easily. This is true, and Pariser should have mentioned it, but in itself it doesn't invalidate his point. Since his argument is that blinders are being imposed without most people's knowledge, it doesn't help much to say that you can avoid them if you know they're there.)

It is certainly appropriate to look into how these new intermediaries influence our Internet experiences, and there are perfectly legitimate criticisms to be made of their workings. One reason I spend far less time on Facebook than I used to is because I'm tired of the site's hamfisted efforts to guess what will interest me and to edit my news feed accordingly. Of course, that isn't a case of personalization gone too far; it's a case of a company that won't let me personalize as I please.

Above all, Pariser is right that we learn more when we encounter more surprises. He just doesn't make a compelling case that those stray signals are disappearing. "Google is great at helping us find what we know we want," Pariser writes, "but not at finding what we don't know we want." The only conceivable response to this is: Have you ever used Google in your life? It's the world's greatest serendipity machine.

That's the big problem with The Filter Bubble. It does a decent job of discussing the ramifications of its core assumptions, but it never establishes that those assumptions are true. Most importantly, it doesn't establish that we're being herded into ever-tighter filter bubbles.

Pariser contrasts the age of personalization with the days of the mass audience, when editors could ensure that the stories we needed to know were mixed in with the stories we really wanted to read. Set aside the issue (which Pariser acknowledges) of how good the editors' judgment actually was; we'll stipulate that newspapers and newscasters ran reports on worthy but unsexy subjects. Pariser doesn't do the obvious next step, which is to look into how much people paid attention to those extra stories in the old days and how much they informally personalized their news intake by skipping subjects that didn't interest them. Nor does he demonstrate what portion of the average Web surfer's media diet such subjects constitute now. Nor does he look at how many significant stories that didn't get play in the old days now have a foothold online. If you assume that a centralized authority (i.e., an editor) will do a better job of selecting the day's most important stories than the messy, bottom-up process that is a social media feed, then you might conclude that those reports will receive less attention now than before. But barring concrete data, that's all you have to go by: an assumption.

Yes, our media consumption is increasingly personalized. But personalized does not mean isolated. Pariser imagines the Internet becoming a stagnant "city of ghettoes," where "connections and overlap between communities" disappear. But how many people belong to just one online community? A personalized Internet is an Internet geared toward your particular combination of interests, and therefore to your particular combination of human networks. If you're a Methodist Democrat in South Baltimore who watches birds, follows basketball, and loves Elvis, you might be in touch online with people who share your faith but not your politics, and vice versa; your neighborhood but not your hobby, and vice versa; your taste in sports but not in music, and vice versa. And while there may be many good reasons to hate Facebook, an insufficient diversity of views isn't one of them. One of the chief effects of using the site is to discover your friends' horrifying opinions. That isn't a city of ghettoes. It's a city of crossroads.

In political terms, that means it's easier, not harder, to break out of those longstanding Red Team and Blue Team bubbles. It's rare for real people's politics to be an exact fit with the standardized boxes provided by the traditional media; Crossfire-style shows might not have much room for pro-life liberals or conservationist conservatives, but the Web does. Our political maps—not just the conventional left-right spectrum, but all the alternatives that people have proposed—can never describe the full range of our perspectives; no matter how you map our political philosophies, someone somewhere will have fused two ideas that you've put on opposite sides of your chart. In a world of hyperlinks, everything is adjacent to everything else. "Left" and "right" become as meaningless as "up" and "down" in outer space.

Nor is it clear that politics are the most important factor in the new filters. At the beginning of the book, Pariser tells us about two friends who searched simultaneously for "BP" during last year's oil leak. Google gave one woman a page of links about the situation in the gulf, while the other one received a page of investment information. "If the results were that different for these two progressive East Coast women," he writes, "imagine how different they would be for my friends and, say, an elderly Republican in Texas." I'd be a lot more impressed if Pariser had actually included an old Texas Republican in the experiment. Instead all he's established is that two people with the same politics are being sorted in different ways, a result that actually cuts against the idea that we're being autofiltered into ideological bubbles. Either that, or one of his friends did the search wrong.

Even rigid partisans like to visit the other team's outlets. Republican and Democratic blogs scour one another for posts they can link and mock; rumbles break out in the comment threads. Last year Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro, two economists at the University of Chicago, did a formal study of the levels of ideological segregation online. Their paper, to be published in an upcoming Quarterly Journal of Economics, noted that the Net "makes it easy to consume news from multiple sources." People who get their information from one source "tend to be light users, and their sole source tends to be one of the large relatively centrist outlets"; meanwhile, "people who visit sites like drudgereport.com or huffingtonpost.com, by contrast, are heavy Internet users with a strong interest in politics. Although their political views are relatively extreme, they also tend to consume more of everything, including centrist sites and occasionally sites with conflicting ideology." Not surprisingly, the scholars found "no evidence that the Internet is becoming more segregated over time."

A decade ago, the most quoted cartoon about life online said, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." Today that's been displaced by a different cartoon, one where a man won't come to bed because "someone is wrong on the Internet." If we're living in bubbles, they're bubbles that sure like to ram into each other. And bubbles that collide are bubbles that are more likely to burst.

Jesse Walker is managing editor of Reason magazine.

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  • Almanian||

    You guys are on FIRE with the alt-text today. Well done, Mr. Walker!

  • ||

    Moops!

  • Mainer||

    classic

  • ||

    one where we're sealing ourselves in bubbles without realizing that we're doing it.

    Hmm . . sound like the return of "False Consciousness" to me. You think you're open minded but really it's just an illusion . . . come visit us at Moveon.org to really open your mind!

  • Mainer||

    who's "we", paleface ?

  • ||

    Democracy requires a reliance on shared facts

    What?

    Why?

    And what facts?

    This is idiotic. If we had shared facts then we would have no need for democracy....ant and bee colonies have shared facts. People have democracy so we don't fucking kill each other over our diverging facts.

  • Sudden||

    "Facts" is the wrong word for what he's looking at anyways. If something is a fact, tautologically, it is shared among people with diverse viewpoints. Its interpretation and analysis of facts that matter, and that is where, sadly, we have opted for a republic (not a fucking democracy, which would likely be n degrees worse) as the means for implementing policies based on those interpretations of facts:

    FACT: Budget Deficit FY2011 ~$1.6tr

    TEAM BLUE: TAX TEH RICHEZZ!!!1!!
    TEAM RED: CUT TEH SPENDING!1!1! (excluding defense, SS, MC, or anything else that will actually have an impact on the bottom line)

    Us 30 or so monocle twisting libertarians: Kill em all and let the bond market sort em out.

  • cynical||

    They're just mad that heretics exist, is all.

  • GregorySmith3||

    So what's wrong with people choosing to filter their content? I do that everyday. I go to this website and a few others that I agree with. Huffington Post and RawStory kicked me out, so I don't go there anymore. See? That's filtering. The truth is we're all better off with our own kind.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The truth is we're all better off with our own kind.

    So what are you doing here?

  • Watoosh||

    OH SNAP

  • Almanian||

    Gregooooooooo!!!

  • ||

    The Filter Bubble has a better example - the mind-numbing stupidity of right-wing radio where lies permeate our culture daily.

    Example - "Obama won't let us drill for oil!".

    CUERO, Texas—Oil-drilling activity in the U.S. has accelerated to a pace not seen in a generation as energy companies, oilfield contractors and landowners rush to exploit newly profitable sources of crude.

    The number of rigs aiming for oil in the U.S. is the highest since at least 1987, according to Baker Hughes Inc. The 818 rigs tallied by the oilfield-service company last week are nearly double last year's count and about 10 times the number that were drilling for oil in the late 1990s.

    (Wall Street Journal Feb 2011)

    Another?

    "Obama has tripled our deficit!"

    Reality? $1.3 trillion to $1.5 trillion is not a "triple".

    http://www.politifact.com/trut.....istration/

  • erm||

    Or "Scott Walker made an artificial budget deficit!": http://www.politifact.com/texa.....ck-maddow/

  • Ar-Arooooooooh!||

    Sherrreek bays at the moon again. Wake up and stop your shameful, blind worship of WarSwine Barry, who along with his pals across the aisle, continues to tax, spend and warmonger the country to death.

  • ||

    I'm happy with gridlock, pal.

    GOP House and liberal president - lets keep it up.

    After the disaster of Bush these are stable, good times and the markets agree.

  • Aroooh!||

    you should stop calling WarSlime Barry a liberal.

  • ||

    You do realize that Clinton started this shit show of a collapse.....
    Putting blame solely on Bush shows how little you know...

    We aren't stable at all. Obama didn't do anything to prevent another collapse.

  • NotSure||

    There is nobody more mind numbing than you Shrike. I don't need an internet search to know that that there is no Christian Taliban is out to get you as you claim. Or your ludicrous claim that you are somehow a classical liberal and then fail to name a single big government venture you do not support (other than your dear Bushpig of course).

  • ||

    The country would be better if SS/Medixxxx had never existed. But they do and they are not going away.

    I often mention that Medicare needs to be whacked via killing the doc fix or an independent cost control panel.

    I am a realist as well as a classic liberal.

  • NotSure||

    You are not a classical liberal. There is one US politician that is closer to fitting that description than any other, I will give you clue who it is: His first name starts with an R and surname starts with an P, and when his full name is mentioned you become possessed by rage. No doubt Obama is your type of classical liberal, despite the fact that he behaves like a Peron or Clement Atlee, neither are classic liberals.

    A classical liberal does not use the excuse: "oh thats how things are, thus they must stay". You are a classic conservative, somebody who wishes to maintain the status quo, because a change will mean your world comes crashing down.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Paul Ryan?

  • ||

    "I am a realist as well as a classic liberal."

    =>If you were a classical liberal, your brain would have accessed that phrase enough times that you wouldn't mistakenly call yourself a "classic" liberal.

    =>When quitters quit exerting cognitive effort and want to be applauded for it, they call themselves "realists."

    ergo, you are a lazy poseur.

  • ||

    Way back in 1995, the attorney-activist Andrew Shapiro argued in The Nation that the online world was entering an era where "you interact only with people of your choosing and with information tailored to your desires." . . . The "crucial step," he warned, came on April 30, 1995, "when the National Science Foundation shut down its part of the Internet." Henceforth we would be at the mercy of corporate giants like AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy.

    I knew it was all Prodigy's fault.

  • Almanian||

    I blame Bush.

  • Sudden||

    It was the firestarter...

    the twisted firestarter...

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    “Democracy requires a reliance on shared facts; instead we're being offered parallel but separate universes.”

    Who will determine these "shared facts"?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE-R60QPh_g&NR=1

    (@ 1:15)

  • yonemoto||

    to properly link a youtube video to a particular timestamp, simply append an "&t=xxmyys" at the end, like such:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....=1&t=1m15s

  • ||

    And why does democracy "require a reliance on shared facts?" Pariser's clutching his pearls about stuff he (1) can't prove, (2) can't show why we need to mitigate, and (3) can't show why the government in particular needs to step in, or what exactly it is that requires government refereeing.

    To prevent such a future, he suggested, the government should "establish forums in cyberspace dedicated explicitly to public discourse....These public forums must be visible, accessible and at least occasionally unavoidable...

    Jesus F. Keeryste. Occasionally unavoidable? So Pariser's utopia is that every day, for at least a half hour, every page we attempt to load redirects to some ass-sucking public forum, where we have to read the near-illiterate ramblings of obese multi-racial welfare teen babymommas?

  • Almanian||

    My reaction to this meme is essentially your question: "Have you ever used Google in your life?"

    It strikes me very much that this is all "might", and "could be", and "will lead to", and "I know a guy who", and "the next logical step would be" with precious-little (i.e. zero) evidence.

    My experience tells me this is wrong (how'd I find Reason? LOOKING FOR SOMETHING ELSE ON THE INTERWEBS!). Which quickly leads me to believe, when contrasted with the authors' comments and theories, that they are the worst kinds of theorists - the kind who develop all their theories in a vacuum, theories which are difficult - if not impossible - to test, and then build upon the theory later by assuming that the initial theory was correct. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    Shorter Almanian - these fuckers need to get out more, and see how real life works, as opposed to how they THINK it works in their circle jerks with like-minded fucktards.

    Good stuff, Jesse! That is all.

  • ||

    ***(how'd I find Reason? LOOKING FOR SOMETHING ELSE ON THE INTERWEBS!)***

    Go ahead and admit you were surfing for Pelosi porn and found a post by me.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Even on Reason, there are plenty of ad for stuff I don't agree with. Today I've been seeing an ad for a Sarah Palin movie. I've seen ads for dating sites I would not trust, Obama 2012, Christian Mingle, and all kinds of other stuff. Even in our bubbles, we're not isolated.

  • yonemoto||

    actually google does put you in a bubble.

    http://dontbubble.us/

  • ||

    I think it's easy for privileged, well-educated cosmopolitan fucks to think that the internet allows people to filter themselves to death because, well, you have to blame SOMETHING for the fact that not everybody is like them.

    However, as somebody who grew up in a working-class white family on Chicago's South Side, I can assure you that people were very good at avoiding people and facts that challenge their world view a LONG time before the internet came along.

  • Almanian||

    Yeah, interesting - we called them "cliques" when I was in high school. I guess they didn't have them where these guys went to school.

    At work we call them "Union Officials"...

  • The Other Kevin||

    Apparently, when people used to live in small towns or close-knit ethnic communities in cities, they were much more open-minded. Who knew?

  • KKK Member||

    I did!

  • ||

    I get the feeling that we need these "the internet is destroying us" people. If only because otherwise all articles about the internet would read like any Wired magazine article written circa 1998.

    We need their delusion foil.

    The internet is fucking incredible...but one can only read about how fucking incredible it is until you want to blow your fucking brains out.

    Much better to read about how wonderful the internet is when written in the muted tones of its defense.

  • !Ar-Arooooooooh!||

    The internet has me ululating like a Baskerville hell-hound.

  • Almanian||

    We need another view of this...

    *looking in mirror*

    "hercule triathlon saivinen....Hercule Triathlon Saivinen....HERCULE TRAITHLON SAIVINEN!!!....."

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Please, don't. I can't... I can't take anymore. Please God, don't summon Herc!

  • Old Bull Lee||

    Take it from somebody in Appalachia - the internet and search engines broke the isolating bubble for me.

    The nature of hyperlinking has led me to all kinds of things far removed from the information I originally sought.

    If anything, one must construct their own mental filter to avoid an overload of diversity.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    There are three things that made living in Appalachia tolerable for me from 2006 - 2009:

    3Mbit/sec DSL (used to be 14.4k dial-up)
    24-hour Wal-Mart a 20 minute drive away (used to be more like a 7-hour convenience mart in town before Wal-Mart rolled in)
    Over-the-air high-def TV (no cable and no local stations on satellite)

    Of course, there are the fringe benefits, like leaving vehicles I needed to get around to working around half-dismantled in my yard and using my backyard as a shooting range.

  • Kevin||

    Goddamn great article.

  • T||

    one of the chief effects of using the site is to discover your friends' horrifying opinions

    It is always entertaining to see moments of total idiocy from your friends.

  • ||

    The only celebrity I've ever met in person was Dr. Timothy Leary, who was putting on a lecture at NMSU about 18 years ago. While speaking in front of a huge projection screen, he basically laid out his prediction for global communications much like we see today - long before "internet" was a household word. He spoke of being able to talk "brain to brain" with anyone on the planet.

    Wish I had known then to buy stock in some of these computer companies.

  • ||

    Funny. I remember the mad rush to get into Netscape stock - the vehicle of its day for brain-to-brain.

  • Pavian||

    Facebook is for girls.

  • Well now....||

    it looks like the DOD aka the Pentagon is going to be master of the internet now -- National Security, you know.

  • Pip||

    This is off-topic but as a group you seem to know about stuff.

    I got a letter from the Department of Conmmrce saying that my address had been selected as one of the addresses that will be recieving a detailed census form (I already did the 2010 census) and that I was required by law to respond.

    Then I recieved the detailed census form and it too said that I was required by law to respond.

    I then received a follow-up post card that sai I should have recently received the detailed census form and that I was required by law to respond.

    WTF?? It's 2011 for Christs sake! So do I really have to respond and what is the legal definition of "respond"?

  • ||

    Does it say you have to respond truthfully?

  • Pip||

    I haven't looked that closely at the actual detailed census form to find out.

    I would like to simply respond with "Go fuck yourself" or better still, not at all.

  • -||

    I think you've made the smart move in asking strangers on the internet for legal advice.

  • Almanian||

    Word

  • Under penalty of death||

  • Sudden||

    Just respond by stating that you keep several hundred imported child sex slaves in you basement...

    and make sure you have enough dogs nearby all entrances to soak up all the ammunition when ATF/SWAT/whatever other agency comes barging down your doors.

  • ||

    A wall of dogs, fifty feet high and twent feet thick. That will slow down the bullets and the tanks, giving you enough time to escape in your monocle powered helicopter.

  • Almanian||

    God DAMN, Humongous, you do live large! "Monocle-powered heli-fuckin-copter" for the WIN, biotcheZ!

  • Almanian||

    Also, "Wall of Dogs" would be an EXCELLENT name for a rock and roll band.

  • Richard||

    I got one of those. The DOC is essentially gathering marketing information and if you study the wording carefully you'll see that you're not actually required to respond. They'll try VERY hard to convince you however. I was all ready to tell the DOC to fuck off until I found out that the interviewer was an old friend.

  • jtuf||

    Don't like antiaboration activists, homeless people, news reports about murders? No problem—you need never encounter them.

    How many people would sit down to have a conversation with homeless people before the internet started?

  • Fluffy||

    All of these complaints are paeans to lost power. Nothing more and nothing less.

    It no longer particularly matters if the editor of the Washington Post thinks a story is important. If nobody clicks on it, his judgment is voided.

    This means that the editor of the Washington Post has less power than he may formerly have had. Him, and everyone like him.

    This fills people like Cass Sunstein with rage, because the entire reason you become a "student of media" in the first place is because you believe in the myth of the Heroic Media Figure, who speaks one little sentence or shows one little picture to a captive oligopoly audience and "changes everything", a la Cronkite's statement about the Viet Nam war being lost.

    It's funny - essentially they're arguing that democracy is dead because unelected media figures no longer have large enough captive audiences to lead a complaint public around by the nose.

  • Old Bull Lee||

    +100

  • ||

    True - the Pope has the same complaint though.

  • Almanian||

    Yeah, but the Pope's elected, so....

  • ||

    Huffington Post and RawStory kicked me out, so I don't go there anymore. See? That's filtering.

    Sounds like you got filtered, alright.

    Does the MarxOn guy talk about filtering by websites, where they protect their precious little dears from unclean thoughts?

  • James||

    Forgive me for posting a link to my own site, but it's only because it's directly relevant, and I won't do it again.
    http://howconservativesdroveme.....osure.html

    The summary is, I'd seen a few interviews where Pariser talked about Google results reflecting the user's political ideology, so I spent a week or so putting together a ridiculously one-sided search history, then did some tests. Maybe it takes more than a week (or more than 200 searches), but I couldn't find any indication that Pariser's not full of crap.

  • Almanian||

    BLOGWHORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!11!!!!!!!won!!!11!oneoneonegodfucking damnit!!!!

    But I keeeeeeeeeeeed!

  • NotSure||

    "shared facts" has a distinct Orwellian feel to it, as if facts are created when the collective decides what the facts should be.

  • cynical||

    Consensus reality.

  • Mark||

    Every despot seeks to control people's access to information.

  • George||

    This is yet another example of people placing blame of human behavior on the internet. Its tiring. Racist comments on youtube were always felt long before youtube. Youtube merely enabled people to actually express their thoughts. People were just as well bullied long before the internet. The thoughts and actions were already assumed in the bully's brains before they could act on them. Best real world example is cheating. You cannot 100% claim you arent a cheater, whether for a test or in a relationship, until you are given the opportunity. The internet is merely a tool to the ends already desired by people. In this case, it is much the same. People always wanted to filter out the stuff they dont want to see, read, or hear. And in fact, theyve been doing it to their best ability for years before the internet. Dont care about the story on NASA? Turn the page or change the channel. The internet has only accomodated people to make this choice pre-emptively. Either way they werent going to pay attention. This whole idea is garbage anyway, because if the internet has done anything, it has been to allow more free flow of information and more access to the information. No one has to rely on the interests of the maintream media outlets. All information that wants to be known can be known...within the law of course

  • ||

    In total agreement with you Mr. Walker.
    My home page is aldaily.com You can see what "The Nation" or "Weekly Standard" or "Reason" has to say on any subject with a few clicks and surprise, they don't all agree.

  • Cajillionaire||

    To some extent this article misses the point. The question isn't whether the internet is capable of introducing users to other points of view. It most certainly can, without it I'd still be a progressive democrat. The question is: are there filter bubbles? Pariser never raised the theory that we're willingly putting ourselves in bubbles. But rather that the websites we use can create them without our knowledge. It is definitely happening, especially with sites like facebook. Where it displays the friends you more frequently interact with more often, usually to the exclusion of other friends. This creates a negative feedback loop and you end up focusing mostly on those friends and ignoring others. Facebook does however have the option to opt out of these features but its buried quite deep in their settings.

    However, Pariser's book is productive in that it raises awareness (I hate that term, but it's fitting) of the situation. All it takes is knowledge and a minute of clicking, and bam, your filter bubble is gone (on facebook anyway). The situation with Google is a bit different. They don't really let you opt out. Some programs like ghostery will block google's information tracking but it can't be done on chrome. You would also have to sign off your google account, and even then it probably wouldn't work unless they're blocking the trackers as mentioned before.

    Personally, I find it unnerving that searching for one term on google would reveal different results than another person doing the same search. I did however try a concurrent google search with my girlfriend and it took 3 searches to reveal a single different link. It was very minor, only one result was only moved a row lower, but still present.

    As a libertarian I obviously find it unnecessary for any kind of government interaction with the internet to mitigate these "problems" which is usually the progressive solution for everything.

    Denying the situation just simply isn't realistic, filter bubbles do pop up, but they're mostly harmless, avoidable, and most importantly PERMEABLE! Like everything remotely political, the situation is blown out of proportion and can be remedied by a little knowledge and effort on the individual's end.

  • Untermensch||

    Actually, to take are of most of Google’s filtering, just turn off web history for your Google account. I did it long ago because I found the idea of Google keeping a record of what I viewed and searched for (and making it available to anyone who borrowed my machine).

  • coniefox||

    I have sign in dacebook,and i always like post some beautiful photos,i think is feels good.Like this photos:
    http://www.coniefoxdresses.com

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Google+ Plus lets you make as many filter bubbles as you want. They use the more accurate term "circles", though.

  • Downsize DC||

    If the author of this book is right, we should abolish libraries, because they provide free information and let the user decide whose information he or she wants to receive.

  • ||

    Today that's been displaced by a different cartoon, one where a man won't come to bed because "someone is wrong on the Internet."

    My girlfriend gave me a print of that cartoon, signed by the artist, for my birthday.

  • ||

    Goddamnnn really great article. Have a look at this collection of funny Facebook Status .

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