Beating the algorithm

By Farah G. Decano


WE have become a nation of multiple alternate realities. This is mainly due to the algorithm of our social media accounts on which we are dependent for news and opinion.

What is wrong with the algorithm?  The information that abounds us is restricted by programmed processes which tend to expose us only to news and opinion that appeal to us.  We are no longer immersed in balanced news or reports anymore.   Due to algorithm, a segment of the population would say the globe is red because they only see their surroundings through crimson lens while another segment would claim that the earth is green because they have been bombarded with merely celadon allegations.

Because the use of social media is for free, the companies that run these internet avenues must rely on other sources of income.  Advertisement is one.  They must persuade businesses and leaders that the promotion of their products or services on their platforms is the most effective advertisement.  Hence, their computer processes are equipped with capability to identify interests of users and then target them as recipients of promotion for certain commodities or services depending on their interests.

The algorithm is definitely programmed for advertisers.   Those who are into sports, foreign news and astronomy are more likely to get news, opinions, and ads on these matters.

The consequence? Our world becomes limited to our echo chambers. With the rise of social media that is dependent on interest-based algorithm, our accounts only show what we are interested in.   Worse, we get news from unscrupulous individuals who feel no accountability to the public.

This unchecked algorithm results in our skewed view of the world.  It does not only cause fragmentation but it also causes bitter conflicts among the world’s inhabitants.  While one group will insist on their own facts, another will pound on their set of truths, and the rest will assert their versions.  Interestingly, factions endeavor to campaign for the wider acceptance of their stances.  They hire so-called influencers to create and promote narratives that sell their realities regardless of whether their stories are factual or not.  To them, for as long as the drama sells and is repeatedly shared, then the lies contained in them become accepted as the truth.

It is difficult to run a world riddled with chaos and falsities.  Aware that our social media accounts cause us to have tunnel visions, we must beat the algorithm that some internet companies refuse to correct.

And we must always demand for the delivery of accurate and impartial information.  It is about time that the more credible and disciplined media companies step up and drum up what they offer – truth and balanced views.

It is sad that some popular leaders dismiss our mainstream media as biased, partial and paid mouthpieces.  While the accusations may be true for some, these cannot be said against all media personalities.  There are still broadcasters and writers who will not waste their four years or more of education and training for money or fame.  I am convinced that we still have the real deals – those who consider delivering the news as a privilege and a discipline – in existence.

In the meantime, people must allow more face-to-face dialogues in their lives.  We must be able to engage our fellow Filipinos, rich or poor, in a healthy personal discussion about our country and the world.

After all, in order to avoid being at the mercy of defective algorithms, we must resist frequently using the platforms that run it.

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