During a TED conference, Eli Pariser presented an argument concerning the tendencies of some websites to alter your search results based on a number of different things. He makes a point that the internet is trying to force information upon us that we often show interest in instead of information that you might need to be aware of. Pariser attempts to illustrate these filters by showing his audience screenshots of two Google searches on the same topic. The pictures show that the search results came back very differently and seemed to be somewhat altered to fit the personality and views of each person. The audience is told that Facebook is also using these “filter bubbles.” Pariser tells us that one day while scrolling through his news feed, he noticed that all the posts made by his conservative friends had somehow disappeared. Facebook had recognized that he read mostly liberal posts and decided to remove all of the conservative posts from Pariser’s view without consulting him first. He gives a quote by the oposing position. Mark Zukerburg, the CEO of Facebook, states “A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” Pariser’s tells us that when he first discovered the internet he thought that it would bring the entire world together by spreading new thoughts and ideas, but now it seems like websites such as Google and Facebook are doing the opposite by isolating individuals to their own opinions. He argues that we should have a well balanced “information diet” instead of one filled with only “information junk food.” This means we should see a little bit of things we like but also the things we need to know. Near the end of his argument Pariser states that we have been in this situation before as a society. He compares the filter bubbles to the newspapers in the early twentieth century. In these papers sometimes opposing sides of a certain argument were not given in the articles. He explains that it has to be realized that a democracy cannot be completely efficient unless the people living under it get information from all sides of an issue, and that the people who maintain these websites should make sure that every bit of information is available to one that seeks it.
Eli Pariser makes a valid point by presenting his experiment with the google searches and telling the audience about his own experiences with filter bubbles. However, the quotes by the representatives of Google and facebook about the way some people react to what is going on in world are true. Another thing to take into consideration is that people usually go through Facebook or Google first when looking for anything on the web. When Parisers talks about what his expectations were compared to what the reality is today affects the emotions of his audience. It makes them look at these filter bubbles as sort of a crime on humanity. When he shows the different search results he is making a logical appeal to the audience. This way views can plainly see how much these filter bubbles affect what they find while searching for something on Google. Using facebook and Google as examples helped validate his argument in the eyes of his audience due to the fact that those are two of the most commonly used websites out there. Although, it would have been beneficial to give examples of other web pages that use a filter bubble to show that a great number of websites are doing this to the information that we receive. Another thing that helped Pariser’s argument was his comparison of information to food. This also appeals to an audience’s sense of logic because it gives them something easy to relate to.
I agree with Pariser’s argument about the affects of filter bubbles, but I do not think that they should be done away with completely. They are used in the wrong way and by the wrong party. I do not think that there should be some sort of digital organizer deciding what information people receive through the Internet unless people decide that is what they want. Facebook and Google should give the option to filter an individual’s search, but not do it automatically without permission. It would not be hard to believe that if given the choice to have their searches and news feeds altered to their liking most people would agree to it. Like Mark Zukerburg states in the quote given, some people just do not care about important things going on in the world. Most people would rather know what the newest cell phone released will be rather than who will be the next president of the United States. If an individual wishes to ignore important information subjects while browsing the web, it should be done by his or her own will. Also, these filter bubbles could cause people to miss information about a threat to their well being. If someone searches the word “news” on google they might end up with news about Kim Cardashian’s new baby instead of the urgent flash flood warning in their area.
Overall Pariser presented a solid argument concerning these online filter bubbles. He made many accusations and supported them with strong evidence. He gave the other side a fighting chance by giving some of the quotes stated by their representatives. He also effectively reached out to his audience’s emotions in his account of how he thought the internet would impact the people of the world and appealed to their sense of logic by comparing the effects of the filter bubbles to something easy to understand. He calls out to the people who run these sites and asks them to ensure that people get a steady flow of information if that is what they desire. I believe that these filter bubbles are okay but only if they are given as an option to a site user. They could even be helpful if used in the right way.
TED. “Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles.” Youtube. YouTube. May 2, 2011. February 2, 2014.