Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Trading Bubbles

I remember when Facebook was all about friends and games. Not that long ago, really. My wall in early 2010 was all about Farmville 'til March when I learned how to post pictures. Then while friends were posting pictures of their meals and their grandchildren, I was posting pictures of garden flowers. 

Somewhere along the way, the newsfeed started including "sponsored content," then clickbait. Now apparently it's all about Big Data. Facebook's Algorithm vs. Democracy. Facebook's model seems to be to cram down your throat more and more of what you seem to like. 

The Guardian experimentally created stereotypically liberal and conservative Facebook newsfeeds and asked ten people (five liberals and five conservatives) to use the feed opposite to their own perspective during the month leading up to the 2016 election. The article describing the experiment appeared on November 16, 2016. I was interested in how they characterized liberal and conservative.
We created two Facebook accounts from scratch. “Rusty Smith”, our right-wing avatar, liked a variety of conservative news sources, organizations, and personalities, from the Wall Street Journal and The Hoover Institution to Breitbart News and Bill O’Reilly. “Natasha Smith”, our left-wing persona, preferred The New York Times, Mother Jones, Democracy Now and Think Progress. Rusty liked Tim Tebow and the NRA. Natasha liked Colin Kaepernick and 350.org.
Okay. I read NYT daily and Mother Jones occasionally. Not Democracy Now or Think Progress. Their coverage is hopelessly limited to Trump politics. 350.org is too much preaching to the choir and not enough science. I had to Google Colin Kaepernick but I see how that could suggest a liberal leaning. Let me add that I watch or read lots of C-SPAN, PBS and (gulp) Scientific American.

But the conservative sites... Wall Street Journal is okay. Breitbart and Bill O'Reilly, nope. Hoover Institution was new to me, clearly conservative but interesting. I heard William Kristol on C-SPAN this morning, so I added The Weekly Standard to the conservative list.

So, I guess what Facebook doesn't seem to know about me is that I care more about diversity and good writing that progressive vs. conservative.

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