The Bubbled Internet

The internet should be a place where anyone can look for ideas and find unbiased answers to their questions. This is something that many people think they are doing, but by using major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, they are giving up that ability without realizing it. What these people (most people) do not realize is that search results on engines like Google are biased toward what any individual person has searched for, looked for, or has shown interest in before. This is commonly referred to as the filter bubble.

In case you are wondering there is no intelligent debate over whether this “filter bubble” actually exists in major search engines. The questions is really just whether or not it is an issue… So is it? Search engines such as Google obviously benefit from showing users what they want, but are these users also benefiting from bubbled search results?

Now just as an experiment search “gun rights.” Look at the first page of results… What do you see? Are they mostly supporting or limiting gun rights? Or maybe (this was the case for me) they are mostly informative sites with no official stance on the issue. Below are the first few results that I saw… Some people may see similar results but more likely than not your results will be quite a bit different.
gun rights google search

Back to the main question… Is this an issue? Imagine yourself doing research on a topic you are not completely sure about. Imagine you have been strongly pro-gun, but you are not totally sure of your stance on the issue at this point… The obvious course of action in this case in the 21st century is to Google it, most likely without the knowledge that the results you will see will tend to favor your current/previous stance. Basically you are asking questions of a diverse group of people posting stuff on the internet, but Google is effectively silencing many people that it thinks you would disagree with. The deck is stacked.

Typically if I ask my friends what their views are on gun rights I would expect most of them to be pro-gun. However, when I am searching online I am typically looking for and expecting varying opinions. I want to see everyone’s opinions, not just those that agree with my view that guns should be heavily regulated.

I believe that someone should be able to look for something online without worrying about whether or not they are looking at a stacked deck. This is my main reason for ditching Google Search in favor of DuckDuckGo which proudly advertises itself as “The search engine that doesn’t track you.” According to their privacy policy they do not store any data about their users meaning that even if they wanted to put you into a filter bubble they wouldn’t have the necessary data to do so. They even have a small site setup to demonstrate the effects of a filter bubble. DuckDuckGo is different from Google and others in the fact that it is built on principles that are good for the user rather than whatever drives profits for them.

…And seriously. Who doesn’t like the duck?!?

DISCLAIMER: This post is entirely my own honest opinion. It is not sponsored by DuckDuckGo or any other mentioned parties.

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