What if you knew what you were missing on social media?

By | August 19, 2023

Julia Angwin writes:

Social media can feel like a giant newsstand, with more choices than any newsstand ever. It contains news not only from journalism outlets, but also from your grandma, your friends, celebrities and people in countries you have never visited. It is a bountiful feast.

But so often you don’t get to pick from the buffet. On most social media platforms, algorithms use your behavior to narrow in on the posts you are shown. If you send a celebrity’s post to a friend but breeze past your grandma’s, it may display more posts like the celebrity’s in your feed. Even when you choose which accounts to follow, the algorithm still decides which posts to show you and which to bury.

There are a lot of problems with this model. There is the possibility of being trapped in filter bubbles, where we see only news that confirms our existing beliefs. There are rabbit holes, where algorithms can push people toward more extreme content. And there are engagement-driven algorithms that often reward content that is outrageous or horrifying.

Yet not one of those problems is as damaging as the problem of who controls the algorithms. Never has the power to control public discourse been so completely in the hands of a few profit-seeking corporations with no requirements to serve the public good. [Continue reading…]

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