It’s now fairly well known that Google search pushes you into an information bubble. Dangerously so, as I wrote about before.
The origin of this policy is nothing sinister. You’re looking for the second piano concerto from Rachmaninoff? They’ll give you many articles or clips with a certain performance, but they’ll also throw in some stuff about his concerto number one. When you’re watching a live news broadcast, they’ll recommend other life news broadcasts on at that moment.
But when you want to know about UFOs, in no time, you get all the fan mail ever written about them. Only when you include qualifiers like fake/ hoax/mistake/science/blooper, you may find some opposing information.
This results in informing everyone one-sidedly. And on highly polarized information, like for or against a cult, that lands you in a bubble. And in the highly polarized field of politics, in no time, you will only read and hear stuff you’ll agree with. The opposition is silenced. It’s like reading or tuning in to a news outlet with partisan propaganda.
Haaretz will give you only one side of the picture, WIN will give you the other side (both often completely fabricated), Arutz7 is less out of whack, but also the Jerusalem Post now writes (copies) many fake-news reports. Some people like to read only what they agree with, free of different opinion. But even if you don’t, Google will get you there.
I want to know what nonsense propaganda channels serve. I’m not going to read or listen to all that Fox News, Trump, a hate-driven politician now said. But I want to know about what they spoke. And I want to be able to comment and dislike. Google is killing the quintessential Letters to the editor. Because you end up with only the possibility to agree and applaud.
And the backbone of democracy, a free press, must be able to call out also my heroes, and that I know about it.
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Google ads, now, do the same. When they spoil you (your time) with an ad, they give you the option to vote it out… from your small screen. But everyone else will still get it. So, I don’t vote out ads that specifically target Israelis with (always dishonest) propaganda about conversion to Christianity, which in fact is a form of genocide. You can’t vote it out. You can only choose to retract into a bubble about it. But if you opt for that, it will continue to conquer the world, happily live on forever after, and do its damage outside of your field of vision and free from your opposition.
You could say that if everyone votes out an ad, it will disappear. That’s not true. If there is enough money behind it, it will reappear all the time, no matter how unpopular. And it will target mostly people who are too naïve or passive to complain. Also, when a platform only has a few advertisers, you will keep seeing the ads you voted off.
BTW: Many ads are often too silly to choose from. Google wants to know which kinds of ads I prefer: cars (I don’t drive, I want to save lives and the environment and in Israel, we have public transportation), personal hygiene (I don’t shave, hate the stink of perfume, need no skin cleanser, moisturizer, or cream), travel (no thanks), bras (I get this ad that says to me every day several times: “This you don’t hear every day,” but I do), etc. It’s like duty-free at airports and planes: I need/want none of it, even if they paid me for using it. It seems that almost all ads promote junk.
They don’t serve me nor humankind by giving a selective assortment of ads “adjusted to you.” “To serve you better.” They only enhance the uncontrolled spread of certain advertisers. I can choose between a car company wasting my time promoting their newest destruction tool against human survival or letting them advertise unopposed to everyone else.
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The comments program the Jerusalem Post uses works the same way. Abusive comments that you dislike, you can vote out for you only. So, if you don’t like racist comments, the program won’t show them to you. So that you can’t comment back pointing out the untruth of the racism. The falsehood will live on happily on the Internet, unchecked and uncontested.
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Google doesn’t offer the only bubble I sometimes want to be in: free of fake news. The ones that claim to be free of lies are often the worst liars.
The only way to break out of our bubbles is, actively going to look for what the opposition says. Looking for bigotry and other falsehoods to oppose. And, being aware of the bubbles Google is pushing us into. On top of knowing the biases of the outlets we visit. Don’t be naïve.
And those who take news in like a movie, show, like sitting in their favorite bath, will be indoctrinated. In a world so full of falsehood, there are only two escapes, alternatives. Avoiding all news reporting and information gathering. Leaving you uninformed and unable to influence where humanity goes. Or, to be an active consumer. To have your brain in gear when you consume the news, search for information, and see ads.