On The Subject of Transparency

As I’ve said before, algorithms aren’t inherently dangerous. The precedence they set, too, is not in itself dangerous. Algorithms aid in companies, like FaceBook, having a more comprehensive understanding of its user base, thus giving it the ability to market more easily. That is the premise anyways, but we’re seldom affected by targeted advertisements. At best, they’re scary, and at worst, they’re ineffective, but cataloguing our content into convenient boxes only shrinks a user’s understanding of the vastness that exists on the Internet.

Algorithms were not designed to limit or constrain an audience, but that’s precisely what they do in the grand scheme of things. And maybe it’s our own fault for wanting content delivered to us in the most efficient way possible with little to no sifting in order to find what we need? Using Google has become easier, and while we can’t necessarily complain about that fact, it is difficult to find comfortability in the idea that Google will only show me content based on my location and previous clicks.

If algorithms are to be used for the betterment of the Internet, then there should be transparency about them. The average person should be able to understand the ins and outs of an algorithm if they’re subjected to it, or alternatively, the average person should be able to opt out of an algorithm altogether. If the average user can’t understand the algorithm, how can that user determine how accurate the information flow is in the first place? A handful of people are so deeply-involved with FaceBook and derive many of their personal values from it that it’s almost criminal to designate an algorithm that does not induce perpetual growth in a person and encourage different perspectives. I believe the News Feed algorithm that exists today benefits businesses and advertisers more than it does its organic user base, and I think it’s important that we dissect what it is that’s attractive about FaceBook and the implications of the content delivered to us with and without our consent.

A site that boasts to deliver the very best content to its user base needs to be consistent in its claim and determine the long-term effects of changing the flow of information. Will we become stagnant in our ideals and pursuits based on the content pushed to us on a daily basis? Will we lose sight of important values because we’re more inclined to ‘like’ something the complete opposite? Will we lose the ability to communicate on a massive scale because the content we post isn’t paid for?

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