Filter Bubbles: The Gated Communities of the Internet

This post arises out an article in today’s Guardian – Google: friend or foe to the open internet? – and a link posted to a video clip from one of the TED conferences. This talk is given by Eli Pariser, a political and internet activist.

I’ve written briefly about filter bubbles in DuckDuckGo: Dada and the Search Engine. Essentially, they are that rarefied space around your search engine that occurs when results are tailored to what it thinks you will like, determined by an algorithm. But Pariser goes into more detail, complete with Show ‘n Tell, in a way that brings the concept alive.

In my comments on the Guardian article, I said:

Walled gardens and filter bubbles are as perniciously divisive as gated communities. For that reason, I think a lot of people either don’t care or prefer the ideological seclusion.

Confirmation bias – the “tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses” – is a universal human attribute. It’s hard to fight, and we all have ideas that resist factual correction. Filter bubbles exacerbate the problem by pandering to our pre-conceived notions. That’s why I dumped Google Search in favour of DuckDuckGo, because it doesn’t filter searches or track them.

But many people like ideological exclusion zones, much as many people like gated communities, for much the same reason – fear of unfamiliar influences. I need all the help I can get in not shutting the door on unsettling ideas (as long as they’re rational), so filter bubbles are anathema.

Here’s the TED video.