My husband was complaining about the
fact that he gets these online ads for slippers and it made me laugh and I told
him that probably somebody out there knows that he’s gradually reaching the
slipper wearing age. But it got me thinking about targeted ads and targeted
messages and fake news. These targeted ads are based on your browsing history.
Somewhere there’s an algorithm that interprets your browsing behavior. If I
go on YouTube and I check out a video on that say papier-mache for weeks and
weeks and weeks my suggestion box is going to be filled with videos on
handicrafts. So the algorithm can get it wrong. When it’s about ads or lifestyle
then I don’t really mind but when it’s about ideology or politics then that’s a
whole different story. Decades ago people used to buy newspapers. Day-in
day-out they bought the same newspaper. A local newspaper to know something about
the city where they lived or a national newspaper. And these newspapers all dealt
with politics, with economics, with finance etc. People chose the newspaper
according to the editorial line. They chose a newspaper that was as close to their
own convictions as possible. These newspapers still exist hardcopy and
online versions. Now if you want to read the online version you have to subscribe
and many people apparently choose not to do so. I think that is because there is
so much information available online for free. You can browse, you get a number of
articles per month for free and you can of course copy/paste.
You would therefore think that people nowadays get their information from a
wide array of sources, left and right. But they don’t and very often they stay
in the same predicament and very often they follow targeted messages. When you
receive a targeted message you have no idea where it comes from, who has written it. There is no editorial line and you risk being
caught in what William Hague calls the echo chamber of your own beliefs.
Targeted messages keep us wallowing in the security of our own convictions.
Ideologically speaking it’s a little bit like being served the same dish over and
over again. The cook and the kitchen staff they know that you like what they
serve you and it’s their priority to make sure that you keep on eating the
same thing and definitely not check out the competition. Racehorses are fitted
with blinders to keep them focused, to keep them on track and that is exactly
what these targeted messages do to us. Only at the finish line there is no cup,
there is no applause. All there is, is polarization. That’s exactly what fake
news does to us. It is biased, it is unchecked, it is exaggerated, it does not
show its sources and it stands diametrically opposed to an editorial
line which is public and therefore open to a challenge. I wonder what is going to
happen when the weather turns. Is he going to get more ads for slippers? Is he going
to cave and buy himself a pair? I’ll let you know.
Meanwhile, that’s my story. If you have a story please use the comment box below
and as always, share, like, subscribe.