Internet companies have been giving users “free” services for years, in exchange for intimate, private information. Thanks to all this information, “personalisation” is now at the core of every web experience. A search engine can give a user information that it believes is most “relevant”, based on his prior web behaviour, level of education, profession, political stance and hundreds of other such indicators. Social networking sites know which of your friends you are most likely to want to know about, based on indicators like shared interests, thus effectively filtering out those you may not share much in common with. Online news coverage is often traffic-driven, determined- based on what is most popular, as opposed to what is most important.
As a consequence, says Pariser, individuals are losing out on the opportunity to expand their intellect through contact with contrarian viewpoints. Users are becoming less democratic, as a consequence of never having to interact with those who are different from them. The world, in his words, is being compressed into tiny “filter bubbles” for individuals.
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