What Google and Facebook Are Hiding

Eli Pariser of the progressive organization MoveOn says the Internet is hiding things from us, and we don’t even know it. In this TED Talk he calls out Facebook, Google and other corporations who are transforming the Internet to suit their corporate interests:

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  • DRLECHCTER

    The old term for this was; divide and conquer.  
    If everyone is looking at there own version of what is going on they will not be able to reasonably communicate with each other about it, much less cooperate to resist.

    We had all better email our corporate masters and humbly beg them to be sure and make ethical choices for us.

  • DRLECHCTER

    The old term for this was; divide and conquer.  
    If everyone is looking at there own version of what is going on they will not be able to reasonably communicate with each other about it, much less cooperate to resist.

    We had all better email our corporate masters and humbly beg them to be sure and make ethical choices for us.

  • C Schweiger

     One of the best talks I’ve watched recently. 

  • C Schweiger

     One of the best talks I’ve watched recently. 

  • Sleeko1

    Oh yeah… Like we can trust anything MoveOn. org says………….NOT!

  • Sleeko1

    Oh yeah… Like we can trust anything MoveOn. org says………….NOT!

  • Jrock6467

    I like this video.

  • Jrock6467

    I like this video.

  • Robert

    The most important thing you didnt mention was they are collecting all kinds of info about you and on you.  Everything.Everything you did that was stupid, ect. ect.  And they can convict you with it. They own the info. It is forever.  They own a piece of you.  It is their net and they catch you with it.  It is their web and you get stuck and cant get out.
    Isa 59:5

     

    They hatch cockatrice’ eggs,
    and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that
    which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.
    Ecc 9:12

     

    For man also knoweth not his
    time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that
    are caught in the snare; so [are] the sons of men snared in an evil
    time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

  • Robert

    The most important thing you didnt mention was they are collecting all kinds of info about you and on you.  Everything.Everything you did that was stupid, ect. ect.  And they can convict you with it. They own the info. It is forever.  They own a piece of you.  It is their net and they catch you with it.  It is their web and you get stuck and cant get out.
    Isa 59:5

     

    They hatch cockatrice’ eggs,
    and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that
    which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.
    Ecc 9:12

     

    For man also knoweth not his
    time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that
    are caught in the snare; so [are] the sons of men snared in an evil
    time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.

  • Wccasey

    Search engines, television, and periodicals are just a few examples of businesses created to serve two groups: viewers/users and advertisers.  The public at large is wrongly beginning to hold websites accountable for content which was never promised.  The “ethical” implication of content in a post-modern society (where truth is derived from one’s own point of view) could be addressed in multiple ways. 

    Internet media outlets are neither academic nor philanthropic by design.  Yet monetarily, most “popular” internet media services (e.g. Google, Facebook) cost the end-users nothing.  But make no mistake; Media outlets were created for the purpose of generating revenue by providing a service on which their creators and investors gambled their own money.  In short, they are businesses. 

    Any media business, internet or otherwise, cannot exist long with advertising revenue alone.  Neither can it remain in business with only users and no advertising income.  In order for that business to remain “open,” it must strike a balance between the needs and wants of these two groups. 

    To give perspective to this topic, let’s look at a parallel example that we’re all familiar with: Television

    Television executives collect ratings (e.g. Nielsen) which are used to determine how a show is performing among a certain demographics (the audience).  Ratings are further used to price advertising time and are then presented to potential advertisers.  If the show is doing well in a demographic that is important to the advertiser, then that advertiser will likely purchase airtime.  This is then used to continue producing a given program.

    In much the same way as ratings, media sites use “hits.” And instead of airtime, advertisers purchase “real estate” on a webpage to display their content.  Instead of channels, the internet has websites.  Both television channels and websites want to hold your attention for as long as possible.  But that is where the similarities end.

    If we return to our Television analogy:  Television relies on short shows in rotation throughout the programming cycle.  If one channel is not showing a program that an audience member wants to watch, then he/she can change the channel or stay on that channel and wait until a new program starts.  In essence, the channel changes the content for the audience and if that change is unsatisfactory, then the audience member then changes or stops the content themselves.

    However, if (for example) Facebook correlates most closely to a television channel in our analogy, then how does Facebook maintain a users attention if they constantly show a marathon of the same “program?”  The short answer is that they cannot.  The question then becomes, “How can Facebook keep their content fresh, relevant, or desirable to their users?”  The same question is asked by other sites like Google;

    Without hiring a personal content consultant for each user, there is no other answer than algorithms.  Therefore, I don’t think that the video is appropriately headlined on this page.  My interpretation of the facts in the video as well as the intent and use of algorithms would lead me not to the conclusion that sites are attempting to “hide” things from users.  Rather, websites are making the attempt to give us that which we have requested based upon who they compute that we are and on what they have to offer in the way of content and advertising (which, remember, is the only reason these websites do or can exist in their current form).

    While the speaker makes some very good points, to suggest that one can code algorithmic “ethics” is problematic.  The suggestion implies that it is possible to write an algorithm that contains a full range of human understanding, emotions and logic in addition to a higher understanding of what a person “needs to be exposed to.”  It is astronomically unlikely that computer code can accomplish this feat when people frequently cannot agree on such things.

    If we are willing to forget for a moment that Google is not an academic venture, then how might we compare a user-to-Google interaction with a person-to-person interaction as one might have with a librarian? 

    When asked to provide help with research, a librarian at the public library will (in most cases) help collect a sampling of information available at that library and present it to the patron.  It will not be the sum total of information that the library has on the topic, but it will be the librarian’s best educated guess of what materials are desired.  The results will vary from librarian to librarian and will also be affected by how well the needs are communicated to that librarian based on his/her understanding of what has been requested.  In the same way, Google provides this same service. 

    Eli Pariser, the presenter in the video, gave the example of two men who searched Google for “Egypt.”  He then claims that each were presented with different results.  However, Mr. Pariser only asked the men for the results on the first page.  Anyone who has used Google knows that there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of results for the vast majority (if not all) of one-word searches.  Mr. Pariser did not follow up with the men to see how similar the results were across the first hundred pages of results or even the first ten.  Who is to say that their results weren’t absolutely identical, yet sorted differently?

    So then, what actions can or should any end user take?  Why not “change the channel?”

    In 2006, just five years ago, Myspace was the leading social networking site. Many were constantly asked by their friends, “Are you on Myspace?” By any reckoning, Myspace was one of the biggest internet sensations since Google.  Many thought its status as the top dog was there to stay.  They were wrong.  It took less than 2 years for Myspace, one of the most popular websites at the time, to be overtaken by Facebook as the decidedly number one social networking site.

    To what extent should users hold these free services accountable?  And by what standard should any accountability be measured? 
    In my opinion, users are getting exactly what they pay for and should not expect anything more.  Sites like Google and Facebook would probably have more satisfied users if these companies offered users the opportunity to customize their own experiences.  To a certain extent, give them more control.

    Ultimately, users could write Google individually to let them know what features would help keep them satisfied. Users could start trying other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Webcrawler, et al).  Or, finally, if a user is dissatisfied enough, perhaps he/she could take the initiative to start their own search engine and start thinking through the problems from the other side of the fence instead of complaining about services that have been provided to them free of charge.

  • Wccasey

    Search engines, television, and periodicals are just a few examples of businesses created to serve two groups: viewers/users and advertisers.  The public at large is wrongly beginning to hold websites accountable for content which was never promised.  The “ethical” implication of content in a post-modern society (where truth is derived from one’s own point of view) could be addressed in multiple ways. 

    Internet media outlets are neither academic nor philanthropic by design.  Yet monetarily, most “popular” internet media services (e.g. Google, Facebook) cost the end-users nothing.  But make no mistake; Media outlets were created for the purpose of generating revenue by providing a service on which their creators and investors gambled their own money.  In short, they are businesses. 

    Any media business, internet or otherwise, cannot exist long with advertising revenue alone.  Neither can it remain in business with only users and no advertising income.  In order for that business to remain “open,” it must strike a balance between the needs and wants of these two groups. 

    To give perspective to this topic, let’s look at a parallel example that we’re all familiar with: Television

    Television executives collect ratings (e.g. Nielsen) which are used to determine how a show is performing among a certain demographics (the audience).  Ratings are further used to price advertising time and are then presented to potential advertisers.  If the show is doing well in a demographic that is important to the advertiser, then that advertiser will likely purchase airtime.  This is then used to continue producing a given program.

    In much the same way as ratings, media sites use “hits.” And instead of airtime, advertisers purchase “real estate” on a webpage to display their content.  Instead of channels, the internet has websites.  Both television channels and websites want to hold your attention for as long as possible.  But that is where the similarities end.

    If we return to our Television analogy:  Television relies on short shows in rotation throughout the programming cycle.  If one channel is not showing a program that an audience member wants to watch, then he/she can change the channel or stay on that channel and wait until a new program starts.  In essence, the channel changes the content for the audience and if that change is unsatisfactory, then the audience member then changes or stops the content themselves.

    However, if (for example) Facebook correlates most closely to a television channel in our analogy, then how does Facebook maintain a users attention if they constantly show a marathon of the same “program?”  The short answer is that they cannot.  The question then becomes, “How can Facebook keep their content fresh, relevant, or desirable to their users?”  The same question is asked by other sites like Google;

    Without hiring a personal content consultant for each user, there is no other answer than algorithms.  Therefore, I don’t think that the video is appropriately headlined on this page.  My interpretation of the facts in the video as well as the intent and use of algorithms would lead me not to the conclusion that sites are attempting to “hide” things from users.  Rather, websites are making the attempt to give us that which we have requested based upon who they compute that we are and on what they have to offer in the way of content and advertising (which, remember, is the only reason these websites do or can exist in their current form).

    While the speaker makes some very good points, to suggest that one can code algorithmic “ethics” is problematic.  The suggestion implies that it is possible to write an algorithm that contains a full range of human understanding, emotions and logic in addition to a higher understanding of what a person “needs to be exposed to.”  It is astronomically unlikely that computer code can accomplish this feat when people frequently cannot agree on such things.

    If we are willing to forget for a moment that Google is not an academic venture, then how might we compare a user-to-Google interaction with a person-to-person interaction as one might have with a librarian? 

    When asked to provide help with research, a librarian at the public library will (in most cases) help collect a sampling of information available at that library and present it to the patron.  It will not be the sum total of information that the library has on the topic, but it will be the librarian’s best educated guess of what materials are desired.  The results will vary from librarian to librarian and will also be affected by how well the needs are communicated to that librarian based on his/her understanding of what has been requested.  In the same way, Google provides this same service. 

    Eli Pariser, the presenter in the video, gave the example of two men who searched Google for “Egypt.”  He then claims that each were presented with different results.  However, Mr. Pariser only asked the men for the results on the first page.  Anyone who has used Google knows that there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of results for the vast majority (if not all) of one-word searches.  Mr. Pariser did not follow up with the men to see how similar the results were across the first hundred pages of results or even the first ten.  Who is to say that their results weren’t absolutely identical, yet sorted differently?

    So then, what actions can or should any end user take?  Why not “change the channel?”

    In 2006, just five years ago, Myspace was the leading social networking site. Many were constantly asked by their friends, “Are you on Myspace?” By any reckoning, Myspace was one of the biggest internet sensations since Google.  Many thought its status as the top dog was there to stay.  They were wrong.  It took less than 2 years for Myspace, one of the most popular websites at the time, to be overtaken by Facebook as the decidedly number one social networking site.

    To what extent should users hold these free services accountable?  And by what standard should any accountability be measured? 
    In my opinion, users are getting exactly what they pay for and should not expect anything more.  Sites like Google and Facebook would probably have more satisfied users if these companies offered users the opportunity to customize their own experiences.  To a certain extent, give them more control.

    Ultimately, users could write Google individually to let them know what features would help keep them satisfied. Users could start trying other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, Webcrawler, et al).  Or, finally, if a user is dissatisfied enough, perhaps he/she could take the initiative to start their own search engine and start thinking through the problems from the other side of the fence instead of complaining about services that have been provided to them free of charge.

  • Guest

     guess it’s a good time to drop my twitter account, find a different search engine, and go back to irc.

  • Guest

     guess it’s a good time to drop my twitter account, find a different search engine, and go back to irc.

  • Tmorgan7

     Awesome speech! That is soooo true! One time, my friend and I were supposed to do research about the “Technology Explosion.” So, we looked it up on Google (on our separate laptops) and, suddenly, my friend say: “Hey, I found out that there is a new machine that can make cupcakes without using an oven!” And I’m like: “Where? I don’t see that on my computer.” So my friend comes over and says: “Your right. We have different results!” It turns out that my friend usually looked up a lot of things about cupcakes because she is OBSESSED WITH THEM. However, I usually look up different things on Google. Because that website sees that my friend looks up things about cupcakes more than anything else, when she researched something else, the computer only brought up things mostly about cupcakes. For me, it brought up things that I usually look up when I’m on Google. This caused us to get different results. It just goes to show that you are right: Google shows you things that you WANT to see . . . but not things you NEED to see.

    – Blue Willow

  • Tmorgan7

     Awesome speech! That is soooo true! One time, my friend and I were supposed to do research about the “Technology Explosion.” So, we looked it up on Google (on our separate laptops) and, suddenly, my friend say: “Hey, I found out that there is a new machine that can make cupcakes without using an oven!” And I’m like: “Where? I don’t see that on my computer.” So my friend comes over and says: “Your right. We have different results!” It turns out that my friend usually looked up a lot of things about cupcakes because she is OBSESSED WITH THEM. However, I usually look up different things on Google. Because that website sees that my friend looks up things about cupcakes more than anything else, when she researched something else, the computer only brought up things mostly about cupcakes. For me, it brought up things that I usually look up when I’m on Google. This caused us to get different results. It just goes to show that you are right: Google shows you things that you WANT to see . . . but not things you NEED to see.

    – Blue Willow

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Bowman/1447492796 Bruce Bowman

    This guy has just barely touched on the tip of the Illuminiceburg

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Bowman/1447492796 Bruce Bowman

    This guy has just barely touched on the tip of the Illuminiceburg

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