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A filter bubble is a result of a personalized search in which a website algorithmselectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behavior and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.
The choices made by the algorithms are not transparent.
Prime examples are Google Personalized Search results and Facebook’s personalized news stream.
The term was coined by internet activist Eli Pariser in his book by the same name; according to Pariser, users get less exposure to conflicting viewpoints and are isolated intellectually in their own informational bubble.
Pariser related an example in which one user searched Google for “BP” and got investment news about British Petroleum while another searcher got information about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and that the two search results pages were “strikingly different”.
The bubble effect may have negative implications for civic discourse
Pariser defined his concept of filter bubble in more formal terms as “that personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms”
Other terms have been used to describe this phenomenon, including “ideological frames” or a “figurative sphere surrounding you as you search the Internet”.
The past search history is built up over time when an Internet user indicates interest in topics by “clicking links, viewing friends, putting movies in your queue, reading news stories” and so forth.
An Internet firm then uses this information to target advertising to the user or make it appear more prominently in a search results query page.
Tim Berners-Lee in a 2010 report in The Guardian along the lines of a Hotel California effect which happens
when Internet social networking sites were walling off content from other competing sites—as a way of grabbing a greater share of all Internet users—
such that the “more you enter, the more you become locked in” to the information within a specific Internet site.
It becomes a “closed silo of content” with the risk of fragmenting the Worldwide Web, according to Berners-Lee.
In The Filter Bubble, Pariser warns that a potential downside to filtered searching is that it “closes us off to new ideas, subjects, and important information” and “creates the impression that our narrow self-interest is all that exists”.
It is potentially harmful to both individuals and society, in his view.
He criticized Google and Facebook for offering users “too much candy, and not enough carrots”.
He warned that “invisible algorithmic editing of the web” may limit our exposure to new information and narrow our outlook.
the detrimental effects of filter bubbles include harm to the general society in the sense that it has the possibility of “undermining civic discourse” and making people more vulnerable to “propaganda and manipulation”.
A world constructed from the familiar is a world in which there’s nothing to learn … (since there is) invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas.
A filter bubble has been described as exacerbating a phenomenon that has been called splinternet or cyberbalkanization,
which happens when the Internet becomes divided up into sub-groups of like-minded people who become insulated within their own online community and fail to get exposure to different views;
the term cyber balkanization was coined in 1996