With Your Agreement: You’re Being Watched and Manipulated

It wasn’t until I did the donation section of my taxes. You have to put the names and address of the organizations you donated to. It was then I found the same address for what I thought were three different charitable organizations. Huh? While I loved the easy curbside donation pickup, it was fraud. Those goods were not being distributed to the needy or sold in thrift shops to help non profits. The mailers looked legitimate. But, that’s what happens with fraud and just as important, misinformation. Are you unintentionally brokering bad information?

I hear the term “research,” all to much so, it’s time for a quick refresher. Two people can enter the same thing into a google search,the exact same thing and get different results.

Your search results also reflect your own implicit and explicit biases. If you use keywords that favor a particular point of view, you’ll usually find more results that favor that point of view. Furthermore, search engine algorithms, like the algorithms that control your social media feeds, use data gathered about you from your online behavior. Thus, your results are not the same as someone else’s for the same query! They vary based on your gender, age, location and other personal characteristics, as well as content you’ve liked or clicked on before. If you consistently like and click on content that favors a certain point of view, your search results and social media feeds may tend to reflect that point of view. This phenomenon is popularly known as a “filter bubble.” Filter bubbles may lead to polarization by isolating people from competing points of view.

Media Literacy: Search Engine & Algorithmic Bias

I start to get very different search engine results when“research” a blog item. Particularity those times when I venture in political discourse. Until I clear cache, cookies and history, the news for you racially changes. 

This week, consider what you think of as “research.” For better, less biased searches, here are two articles that provide guidance where you have more control than the output of an algorithm.

  1. Algorithms control your online life. Here’s how to reduce their influence.     
  2. How to reduce the effect of algorithms on your behavior and worldview: A practical guide  

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