The so-called filter bubble has been part of the standard vocabulary of every Internet critic for several years. It describes the fact that on the Internet and especially in social networks people increasingly get together with like-minded people and come into contact less and less with differing opinions. The result is, of course, not only that you don’t get to know any other views anymore, but also that you reinforce each other’s opinions within the filter bubble.
The filter bubble has a particularly adverse effect on the formation of political opinion. Leftists only talk to leftists about leftist issues. Rights talk only with powers about right matters. They reinforce each other, which often leads not only to a consolidation of one’s own opinion but also to a stronger rejection of all views outside the filter bubble. And if an individual doubt it, his bubble either convinces him to return to the right path with arguments or threatens him with exclusion.
Like most developments on the Internet, this is not entirely new, but (in a negative sense) has been perfected by the laws of the net. Long before we ventured the first driving tests on the data highway, the individual has already moved within a particular environment. There was the worker, who had his colleagues around him during the day, whom he often met at the bar in the evening for a beer after work. There were confessional milieus which, for example in Germany, whose population is more than half Protestant and half Catholic, were in some regions still until a few decades ago strictly isolated from each other. You had your clubs, your own newspaper, etc. – and yet, there was always the door through which someone with a completely different opinion could walk in.
This door has virtually disappeared from the Internet, and anyone who does not actively search for it will probably never come into contact with it. It is ensured by the Internet, for example in the form of Facebook. To show the user those contributions that interest him – and keep them on Facebook for as long as possible – the social network pre-sorts the contributions before they are displayed to the individual user. And not only advertising or suggestions from sites or groups, but also contributions from friends. Facebook uses the data it has collected about the user to create a kind of preference scheme that can be used to display posts. The fact that the user has consciously entered a Facebook friendship with one person is only one of many factors – and he by no means plays the most significant role. If we stick to the topic of politics, one can say: No matter whether Facebook plays in someone’s advertisements, suggestions or contributions from friends, they always agree with the political opinion of the user. This behavior is criticized again and again, but nothing has changed.
How many Facebook users are aware of this fact? I’m afraid the majority won’t even ask themselves if what’s presented to them in the Facebook feed is the complete picture. If you consider how many have become the only source of news and information for the social network, it becomes quite alarming.
But it goes even worse because it becomes more and more difficult to find other opinions even if you don’t think you are in a filter bubble of a social network. Whoever does like most people do, using Google for a search on the Internet, is also profoundly captured in their own filter bubble.
DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that advertises explicitly to protect the privacy of its users. At the end of last year, a study created by was created which wanted to take a closer look at how Google influences the search results for the individual user. The study result is not very encouraging: almost all participants in the study got a single results page for their search, even though they had entered the same keyword under the same conditions. It also affected the news or videos that Google suggested to the searcher. It didn’t matter whether the searcher was logged in with a Google account or had activated single mode in his browser. In each search, Google not only lists the web pages that would best answer the query but also pre-sorts them based on the data Google has collected about the searcher. And between you and me, Google has a lot of data about just anyone who’s on the go on the Internet.
So, we can’t even escape our bubble if we go thru google.
In the socially divided USA, there are always accusations from the political right that the more leftist Internet companies manipulate search results in favor of contributions that tend to the left. Facebook had this case, but it was human editors who unconsciously could not control their own political beliefs. In principle, however, this is instead a conspiracy theory, the algorithm that presorts the results is indifferent to political views. However, this does not prevent him from adopting the results to the political preferences of the seeker. He does this with the same precision he would offer a Pepsi lover Pepsi instead of Coca Cola. Especially in the western world, this is a growing problem because the Internet strengthens the formation of fronts between people in real life. For where, if not on the Internet, is political education sought and political opinion made today?
Thomas Matterne writes stories since he can write. His first professional path, however, was a job as an online journalist at a local TV station. While he works now more in the field of PR and marketing, he is also still a passionate blogger.