Filter Bubbles and the First Amendment

The effects of the Filter Bubble on Social Networking and Search portends both a First Amendment collision and subsequent coming of age.

As described in Pariser’s TED Talk, and Stray’s article “Are we stuck in filter bubbles?...”, we each construct our filter bubble by creating online accounts, and then simply completing online transactions as simple as clicking through web pages; clicking “Like”, “Share” or visiting particular pages and friend profiles on Social Media; viewing particular provided ads, purchasing online, and at its most basic level, interacting with on the internet in almost any way.

I appreciate that this particular approach works in an astounding fashion – by generating massive amounts of data and then utilizing business intelligence tools, many interesting insights can be made, and many marketing opportunities can be identified. But don’t these tools only look at the past?

This question, I believe, punches to the heart of the big data issue – if you are selling to the market of today, are you enabling or disabling the markets of tomorrow? Theoretical historical example: If you only liked written mail and someone creates electronic mail, and there were ‘cookies’ strongly indicating that you liked written mail – wouldn’t you just keep getting sold stamps and envelopes, instead of being told to join America Online? I’m not certain there are great triggers for future purchasing or interests that are too great a leap from current purchasing patterns – products and services that are transformative or vastly different from the current market may be a difficult stretch with this usage of data.

The collision of big data and individual preference is upon us. Wouldn’t it be better to allow users to pro-actively indicate preferences through toggle switches or periodic surveys? As users continue to be put into their own tidy boxes, bubbles, and customer segments by continually creating their own data, I believe users who become more bubble-aware will desire with greater frequency and motivation to break out of these boxes due to a perception of a type of censorship.

What censorship? If my interaction with all data online is through a filter I cannot proactively influence, isn’t my view of this information based upon a third-party’s perception of me actually censoring my experience? We Americans aren’t usually big fans of being told what to think – emotion around this phenomena can be seen each time public schools declare which books will be included and excluded from school reading lists.

 Allowing users to indicate their preferences for different subject matter via “Filter Anchors” (a brand new term for you, Nicco…I just coined it) in a particular way would allow their particular filter bubble to push out at these anchored responses, creating a kind of “Filter Star” (also new). Perhaps this Filter Star eventually fills out into a larger-than-original filter bubble – by users interacting with a wider variety of items on the internet – in the same way that user may interact on Social Media with their “Weak” connections, as described in Stray’s article.

And, perhaps this serves to grow markets and interests, instead of only reinforcing loyalties to particular markets in which you already have anchoring data.

Without an ability to voice our interests, do we really have Free Speech on the Internet?

The Entrepreneur’s word on Net Neutrality and Social Networking

As an Entrepreneur, I read Timothy Lee’s article in Vox with great interest, because I would like to not have government regulation or additional fees be the thing standing between my products and the largest possible consumer base. However, I am kind of torn – because I realize that part of the reason for the argument over what’s happening on the internet is the Tragedy of the Commons: some users are utilizing the internet more and not paying any more. This being said I recognize the other part of that argument is a profit margin one. The only apparent way to escape the Tragedy of the Commons is differential pricing, or taxes, from what I understand – though I did enjoy most of the suggestions for the Last Mile between these two extremes.

Regarding Social Networks, the most interesting insights Christakis and Fowler provided me is the illustration of how the telephone – a social technology – enabled an increased level of community engagement. My company’s first product is intended to increase citizen engagement by allowing users to easily report local issues to State and Local governments, so understanding the “New Societal Norms”, especially those of Enormity, Communality and Specificity will allow me to better create a user interface that incorporates these norms.