The arrival and creation of the Internet opened all kinds of frontiers for us. Thanks to the web, information is closer than ever before and gives us a feeling of freedom. However, the infinite access to knowledge that we think we have can be biased. This is due to the existence and use of algorithms by web search engines such as Google and social networks.
What is an algorithm?
The concept “algorithm” ceased to be a specialized term of computer science and became part of our lives. Technically, an algorithm is a set of defined, ordered, and bounded instructions to solve a problem. That is, a step-by-step procedure to achieve an end.
Social media algorithms are the set of programming rules that will cause a publication (video, article, or image) to be shown more or less frequently to a group of people. It also decides who and when these posts will be displayed.
The influence of algorithms in our life:
The apps and platforms we use every day (like Facebook, Instagram, or even Google) use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make decisions based on information they collect from our profiles and digital presence. From the processing of these, the AIs structure the tastes and preferences of the users and monetize this information through advertisements.
The algorithms of each of these platforms curate the content that we consume online daily; prioritizing, classifying, associating, and filtering information. In this way, they exercise power to shape the user experience and can even promote false or biased news.
The objective of algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning is to replicate the decision processes of the human brain. That is, the algorithm performs the entire search process, imitating the way a person would do it, and shows the user the result.
Although the Internet was born to connect us and give broader access to diverse information, current conditions enclose the user in a bubble. Instead of allowing Internet users to develop critical thinking and generate new concerns; they are given biased information. With the relentless work of algorithms filtering information, the universe to which we have access on the internet is gradually shrinking. It is increasingly necessary to proactively search for new information.
How to combat the information filter of algorithms?
One of the reasons why misinformation occurs is due to the lack of action on the part of users. In order not to limit your digital space, you can interact with all kinds of online content, even those that have different points of view and contrary policies to those that interest you. You can also deliberately follow people with contrary points of view or brands which you do not use. Thus, the algorithm will be forced to broaden horizons and suggest more diverse content.
You can also change the settings to allow some random recommendations (if the system has this feature) and proactively search for new information: the algorithm will recognize your diverse interest and reflect it in future recommendations.
The use of algorithms also raises some cybersecurity questions about our data, find out more about how to navigate safely on social networks here.