The Internet, thanks to the algorithms and the nature of search engines, is becoming the most effective bias confirmation machine in the history.
The Internet has enormous potential as a tool for education; however, its functioning has changed, and in recent years, instead of exposing people to new ideas and different ways of thinking, it only convinces them that what they already have Believe is the truth.
Search engines, instead of displaying different perspectives on a fact, are helping people to find what they want to find.
Search engines give people what they want. In psychological jargon, confirmation bias is the human tendency to interpret, filter, and search for new information in a way that confirms their pre-existing beliefs.
The internet has basically become the best confirmation biasing friend. It is now so saturated with articles and information about any topic that it is easy to find information that defends virtually any imaginable belief. All you have to do is click on a few buttons and Google will take you directly to people who will passionately confirm what you believe. This is because Google uses your browsing history and the recommendations of your friends, as well as your “likes” to show you the results that you might like.
Even the most absurd beliefs, for example, the idea that Hillary Clinton is a reptilian humanoid, defends passionately in certain corners of the Internet. It is likely that no reputable remote source is found to defend such beliefs, but it is possible to find people who espouse this theory. And for many members of our species (which can be quite gullible), this may be reason enough to believe something.
Social media feeds show you what you want to see, not what you need to see to be smarter
You may get the impression that your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds are showing you a live stream of everything posted by your friends and the pages you follow, but it is not.
Several years ago, Facebook released the beta version of its news feed filtering algorithm. Over time, most major online social networks followed suit. A filtering algorithm is basically a computer program that decides what content is going to appear in your newsfeed.
These algorithms probably consider a multitude of factors, but as a general rule, they show you more of the types of content you “like” and are published by the same types of people you’ve been interacting with.
Facebook seems especially toxic in this regard since its algorithm seems to update with extreme regularity in order to feed exclusively the same opinions and the information to which you have been responding recently.
YouTube and other sites recommend content they think you’ll like, not alternative viewpoints
It is currently common practice on many websites to recommend additional content to users. Like news filtering algorithms, recommendation algorithms suggest more content based on what the consumer has already seen/read / responded favorably.
The failure of recommendation algorithms is that they tend to do nothing but point to more content that supports and defends the ideas expressed in the content that the user is already consuming. And unfortunately, many people are consuming entertainment with proven messages to sell, with silly conspiracy theories or fake news.
A person who lacks the cognitive tools to distinguish between information of trust and fantasy can venture into YouTube to watch a video that his friend mentioned and eight hours later end up filling his mind with numerous theories without any foundation in reality. Some people already spend their lives doing this, and YouTube makes it much easier to continually convince themselves that their worldview is real.
The media are biased, and you will find more easily the information of those who confirm your opinion
The vast majority (if not all) of the media has some kind of ideological bent. Media prejudice is nothing new, but with the rise of the Internet, it seems to be worse than ever. The democratization of information-publishing that emerged with the Internet means that anyone can start a website and transmit their opinions to anyone who wants to listen.
And unless you’re good at identifying credible sources and filtering information, it can be easy to track a lot of information points that present partisan or unverified or unverifiable information as if it were the absolute truth.
If you are not careful, you can fool yourself into thinking that you are following objective sources, when in fact you have unconsciously gravitated to the media that favor your particular ideological inclination to end up constantly publishing stories that validate your current worldview.
The current Internet publishing model encourages the creation of hook content
In case the media bias was not enough, the problem is further intensified thanks to the earnings model driven by online advertising.
Most websites make money through advertising, resulting in an insidious number game: the more traffic you get, the more money you earn.
Therefore, online publishers are not encouraged to create the truest, deepest, and highest quality content they can. Rather, they are encouraged to create what makes people click and share, in other words: click bait.
And given the inconstant and fragmented collective attention and the overload of information, the actual content of the articles has become shorter and more superficial. This is especially true today in politics, a domain in which most news media have stopped discussing the truly important issues of our time in favor of treating politicians as television stars to publish ephemeral scandals Which can increase traffic.
Finally, the Internet can become the most effective machine for confirmation bias, only surpassed by the human mind. As theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate, once said: “The first principle is that you should not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to cheat.”