• Content Creation—the origin/originator of the information

• Social System—online reviewing systems for products and content, tools that monitor the “most viewed” content and designate it as such

• Technical—behind-the-scenes programs that promote content based on user history such as Facebook’s algorithm for individual newsfeeds and Google’s PageRank

• Source—the individual’s choices about what information to see and further process

• Psychological/Cognitive—cultural background and demographics, individual traits that affect what a given user is more likely to look at, and how an individual determines information or a source’s credibility and value

Research exploring this aspect of the Internet’s effect on social behavior would first have to ascertain to what extent people are currently aware of these filters. For example, are people aware of how Google personalizes each user’s searches and how Facebook determines what appears is in an individual’s newsfeed? After determining this baseline, further studies could explore the strategies users implement to manage filters and whether increased filter awareness could alter their behavior in seeking, evaluating, and using information from the Internet. If behavior can be altered, what sort of intervention would be both appropriate and effective?

What are the implications of these filters?

The existence of filters seems to indicate that they may be responsible for the creation of online “echo chambers.” These chambers are formed by users that seek only those individuals or voices that have similar interests. This phenomenon deters online debate and access to new information and encourages like-minded individuals to cluster and feed each other’s existing views. The resultant positive feedback loop creates the “echo chamber” where likeminded users only hear what they already know or what they are likely to agree with. Users that never leave the “chamber” will not have the opportunity to encounter different or opposing viewpoints and may never encounter material or ideas that could spark a new interest or idea.

On the positive side, filters may be able to amplify existing relationships between individuals with different viewpoints. For example, if a Facebook user’s friend posts an article and the user comments on it, the poster’s other friends can see the user’s response and respond to it. By virtue of having a mutual friend (the poster), the user and poster’s friends can interact and



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement