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

Three-point defense isn’t enough of a weakness for the Miami Hurricanes to call it a full-fledged Ac ...

Shaquille Quarterman waited less than 24 hours after Michael Pinckney announced he was returning for ...

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Wednesday: ▪ Two highly skilled receivers who ended last season frust ...

Whenever quarterback Tate Martell hurls a football to University of Miami slot receiver Mike Harley, ...

Manny Diaz is the dealer. The pusher. He is good at this. Really good. And what he is selling, we ar ...

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education approved plans developed by the Miller School of Medicine ...

Activist Claudio Rojas was featured in a documentary film, “The Infiltrators,” which is critical of ...

Associate professors William Pestle and Kathleen Sullivan Sealey traveled with students over spring ...

Muslim Students of the University of Miami will hold a prayer service at 12:45 p.m. Friday at the La ...

The theme of the 48th annual Women’s Commission Breakfast keynote address, delivered by Dean Laura K ...

The fourth-seeded Miami women's basketball team opens NCAA Tournament play on its home court fo ...

Make no mistake about it – the college paths of this dynamic Miami offensive duo are as stark in con ...

University of Miami redshirt sophomore Alicia Blagg captured the first NCAA postseason recognition o ...

 It is hard not to think of Miami's Amy Deem when you think of trail blazers in the track and f ...

Friday will be the Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Game, while Saturday is Bark in the Park. ...

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.