Is Personalization More Dangerous Than Fake News?
Analysts infamously misjudged the outcome of the US presidential election. With the entire world watching in rapt interest, many are shell-shocked and still trying to make sense of exactly how the so-called “experts” got everything so wrong.
The Echo Chamber
An increasing distrust towards mainstream media is partly responsible for audiences seeking opinions and information on social media. Unfortunately, this method is vulnerable in a number of ways, as this election cycle revealed.
The social media sphere is dominated by click-bait posts and algorithms that heavily promote sensational stories that often report (or misreport) emotional content as fact. This has created a hyper-segmented ecosystem wherein each individual inhabits her own information bubble, fed and sustained by algorithmic content curated to her beliefs and preferences. That has a number of implications. For one, it means that preexisting biases are reconfirmed, world-views are reinforced, and our tolerance for opposition diminishes. And as we have seen, it also makes us more susceptible to misinformation.
Social Media Pulled into Politics
Zuckerberg stands accused of inadvertently influencing the 2016 presidential election through the circulation of fake news that made its way into the trending section of Facebook, and thereby swayed the opinions of countless voters. This has prompted intense introspection and a reassessment of industry-wide personalization algorithms.
The fake news purposefully preyed on the unsuspecting. Scammers created the fake news to push buttons and make money. The enraged and fearful among us generated more comments, clicks, and shares. That heavy traffic was quickly converted into easy cash.