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

The Miami Hurricanes are running low on tight ends. But their receivers — notably sophomore speedste ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday: ▪ The pretty even split of carries between Travis Homer ...

The University of Miami has lost another player to surgery, and the depth was already lacking at thi ...

A six-pack of UM notes on a Monday: ▪ There has been no more popular or successful quarterback at UM ...

The Miami Hurricanes’ defense leads the nation in tackles for loss and stopping opponents on third d ...

New technology could help schools identify shooters and other intruders before they enter the door. ...

A University of Miami professor has created software to detect fraud in standardized tests. ...

UM President Julio Frenk outlined the strategies of the Roadmap to Our New Century, part of his Stat ...

Students attending Monday night's State of the U address by UM President Julio Frenk offer thei ...

At UM’s inaugural State of the U address, President Julio Frenk detailed the strategies of the Roadm ...

Jeff Thomas may be quiet off the field, but the sophomore has been consistently making lots of noise ...

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Tuesday the league slate for the upcoming 2018-19 season. ...

Miami remained ranked in both major polls Sunday, checking in at No. 21 in the Associated Press Top ...

The Miami Hurricanes came to Toledo, Ohio for the biggest home game in the history of Toledo footbal ...

A quartet of University of Miami men's tennis student-athletes concluded the final day of compe ...

TMH Twitter
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 in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.