As we experience one of the largest online protests in history at this very moment, no topic seems more pertinent to write about than online censorship and content filtration.
Social media has always been about communication with the opportunity for real-time engagement. So when we see a piece of legislation come along that threatens such engagement, we cannot help but be concerned.
If you haven’t read about the horrible Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) legislation, check it out and decide for yourself. All I will say is that personally, I do not see anything positive coming from such an act. There are other ways to defend the rights of intellectual property owners, while also upholding the rights of free expression for folks like you and I.
Anyway, I’ve digressed. The focus of this article is on content filtration. You see, as more and more people join the conversation on various social platforms, more and more content is vying for our attention. At some point (and many say we’ve already reached that point), the average user will not be able to sift through all that content without feeling overwhelmed.
The answer to this scenario of “content overload” has been to implement content filters, such as Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. EdgeRank automatically decides to show you only certain content, while hiding everything else, based on a number of measurable factors between you and the content creator.
Twitter uses a similar approach to display trending topics, which are algorithmically selected based on what is “most breaking” and “immediately popular.” In the case of both Facebook and Twitter, algorithms make up a huge part of what we see and how we interact through social media.
The point is that this trend is not diminishing at all. Algorithmic content filtration is increasing across the web. So, what is the Achille’s heel of social media? Content filtration! In a sense, it is a necessary evil, because without some type of automatic content filtration, we would be lost among all the chatter, thus detracting from our social experience.
At the same time however, it sure seems ironic to me that we are leaving our social media interaction in the hands of a computer algorithm. After all, what is social about that?