Skewing Perspectives

As I mentioned earlier, algorithmic gatekeeping is a practice that ‘personalizes’ your news feed, Google search results, and most recently Instagram (but not without a fight). On Easter, Instagram announced that it, too, would test launch a new algorithm, similar to FaceBook’s. Users collectively voiced their concerns over the coming change, while others encouraged their followers to preemptively opt in for “post notifications” to prevent missing an account-specific post on their newsfeed (as pictured below).


 

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Taken from Google Images.


Ironically enough, FaceBook users don’t seem to be affected by the strict algorithm present on FaceBook that has slowly evolved since August 2013 because the changes were gradual. Even Eli Pariser, from the TEDTalk I mentioned previously, didn’t notice when his newsfeed began to change until it was too late, and fortunately for Instagram users, we were given a notice, albeit short, to affect that change in a way we deem necessary. Users of social media platforms seldom read privacy statements or pay attention to updates because they’re seen as “necessary,” and by necessary, I mean the website would cease to exist without them.

While that couldn’t be further from the truth, your everyday user might feel completely consumed by the platform that minor changes that affect how information is received might be on the back-burner of their mind. Change continues, and the user suddenly doesn’t recognize the platform for what it was; that’s when there’s a noticeable problem. Truthfully, the problem surfaces the minute users admit that they’re powerless to changes, both in privacy and interface, and this problem compounds until the data is skewed and information becomes more difficult to access.

Algorithms can be useful, but when it comes to the filtering of information or determining the relevancy of our content, it can be harmful. Users of Instagram across all walks of life opposed the testing, but most notably, Kylie Jenner:


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Taken From Google Images.


Algorithmic gatekeeping can become harmful when it impacts users who get paid for their acclaim value on the platform, which is fairly common. Instagram responded diplomatically by saying, “we are aware of your concerns, and we assure you nothing is changing with your feed right now.”

Removing the chronological format of Instagram might be harmless if implemented correctly, but I believe that it is capitalistic in nature as it is which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Popular users have adjusted to time zone differentials and understand the most opportune times of the day to distribute new content to their followers. If an algorithm removes the chronological order format that exists today, it removes the premise of Instagram that makes it desirable. It will become just a overly-visual FaceBook, and content that is deemed relevant by the algorithm will probably fall short just as FaceBook has.

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