'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Another Way Facebook and Google May Be Undermining Democracy By Tom Jacobs
Google and Facebook
have, in recent months, belatedly began to engage in the battle against fake news. But
the fact so much misinformation has proliferated on their platforms is only one
of the ways these technology giants may be endangering democracy. Newly published research points to another: It finds
the tools these companies offer to customize our news feeds result in users
getting less and less exposure to viewpoints that challenge their own.
by computer and information scientists as a way to help users cope with
increasing information overload, customizability technology appears to have a
dark side,” writes a research team led by Ivan Dylko of the University at Buffalo. “It enables
individuals to surround themselves with information supporting their
preexisting political attitudes.”
The researchers report
this effect was strongest for “ideologically moderate individuals,” potentially
pulling them in a polarized direction. Such a dynamic “can undermine important
foundations of deliberative democracy,” they write in the journal Computers
in Human Behavior. The study - one of the
first to address this issue - featured 93 students from a university in the
southwestern United States. All began by filling out a questionnaire measuring
their political attitudes and ideology. Four weeks later, they were asked to
provide feedback on “a new political news website.”
The students were
randomly assigned to try one of several versions of the site, including one in
which they could select the ideology of their information sources, and another
in which the computer software performed similar sorting. The computer’s
choices of what to include and exclude were based on the information
participants provided in their questionnaire; they were not informed that this
automated customization had taken place. The researchers
measured how often participants clicked on articles that supported or opposed
the students’ political preferences, and how much time they spent reading each.
Not surprisingly, use
of either customized technology decreased the number of clicks, and time spent
reading, articles espousing viewpoints that differed from those of the user.
More insidiously, the automated form of customization produced a stronger such
effect than the one where the user consciously chose what sorts of articles he
or she wanted to read. Why would that be? The
researchers note that “actively and intentionally avoiding counter-attitudinal
political information” diminishes our ability to see ourselves as fair-minded.
Holding onto a positive self-image — which is a priority for virtually
everyone — may inspire us to at least occasionally check out what the other
side is saying... read more: