The Filter Bubble

A sensible point about the growing power of Google and Facebook is swamped by a chain of questionable assumptions leading to extravagant conclusions.

When Google introduced personalised searches in 2009, Pariser argues, what it was doing was using invisible filters to make judgments about us, driven purely by commercial interests, based on every link we click on as well as our tastes and preferences. The result, he says, is a sanitised, unchallenging world of "auto propaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas".

So far, so fair. No one would argue against the right to know what data is being withheld from us and why. The trouble with Pariser's argument is that it is based on breathtaking assumptions, from supposing most of us rely only on the web for information to the conviction that we treat Facebook as a credible primary news source.

He veers from the paranoid ("you can get stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of yourself - an endless you-loop") to the delusional ("for a time, it seemed … bloggers and citizen journalists would singlehandedly rebuild the public media"). Ultimately, any valid point he has ends up being swallowed by the black holes in his flawed polemic.

Published: August 12, 2011 04:00 AM