Opinion

Filters isolate Internet users

The Internet’s infinite pages of data are known as the World Wide Web for a reason. It’s supposed to serve as our global connection to all of the information we desire – and even the information we don’t.

But the Internet has transformed, and technology companies can control the flow of information without us even realizing it.

On Facebook, posts from friends who don’t share the type of info that a person typically seeks out, are often filtered out. Google search results also vary based on a preference history stored in one’s Google account settings. The emergence of such algorithmic editing on the Internet reduces connectivity and access to diverse perspectives.

The Internet is valuable because it exposes people to new sources of information and points of view. We learn by exchanging ideas and grow by encountering notions with which we don’t necessarily agree. Instead, these “filter bubbles” – or unique personal universes of information that we live in – may hinder progress in the long run.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims that he believes connectivity to be a human right – and the majority of The Miami Hurricane’s editorial board has expressed its agreement. Then why is it that Facebook uses algorithms to filter news feeds and restrict access to a wider pool of information? That’s not the definition of connectivity.

It’s not that these companies have any malicious intent, it’s simply strategic. For one thing, tailored content and a targeted consumer base help boost advertising revenue. For another, companies may think they’re giving us what we want.

However, sometimes it’s not a matter of what we want to know, but what we need to know. Websites like Tumblr, Reddit and StumbleUpon reflect Internet users’ emerging desire to discover new tailored content. But this perpetual re-enforcement is dangerous.

It’s hard to cultivate new interests or ideas if we’re only exposed to things we enjoy. If encyclopedia entries were organized according to individual interests rather than alphabetically, nobody before the age of the Internet would’ve learned anything new or unusual.

Positive changes emerge out of discoveries that can occur given access to more information. Still, it isn’t realistic to suggest that we abandon tailored content entirely. Filter bubbles and optimized results can be both convenient and entertaining. Personalization should thus be an option for users – modifiable through easy-to-find settings – but not forced upon them.

Don’t tell us what’s interesting. It’s a virtual journey to find out for ourselves. No filter needed.

 

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

October 2, 2013

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Most NBA mock drafts had Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed going late in the second round of Thursda ...

University of Miami shooting guard Davon Reed will gather with friends and family in Ewing, New Jers ...

University of Miami great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp announced on Tuesday that he pl ...

The University of Miami continues to make a hard push for five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley of ...

The University of Miami’s 2018 football recruiting class, already ranked the best in the country by ...

UM female scientists share some insight on women in science, science in Hollywood and how Wonder Wom ...

Read the latest entries from UM students who are spending part or all of their summer visiting diffe ...

UM Student Affairs Advocacy Coordinator Heather Stevens has been awarded the William Leftwich Award ...

President Julio Frenk makes the case for collaboration at eMerge Americas. ...

UM College of Engineering Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet and alumnus Rony Abovitz share the stage in a disc ...

The Atlantic Coast and Big Ten Conferences announced Monday, the University of Miami men's bask ...

Three members of the University of Miami men's tennis players have been selected as All-ACC Aca ...

The University of Miami women's golf team had four individuals selected to the 2017 Atlantic Co ...

A freshman from Stratham, N.H., Rebecca Ripley of the Miami women's basketball team sat down wi ...

University of Miami standout Shakima Wimbley is headed to the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Londo ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.