Government Abuse of the Filter Bubble

The FBI needs a warrant from a judge to search your laptop. But if you use Yahoo or Gmail or Hotmail for your e-mail, you ‘lose your constitutional protections immediately…’

Ideas worth re-visiting from Eli Pariser’s 2009 The Filter Bubble. This third installment looks at how governments might abuse Internet personalization.

“The FBI needs a warrant from a judge to search your laptop. But if you use Yahoo or Gmail or Hotmail for your e-mail, you ‘lose your constitutional protections immediately,’ according to a lawyer for the Electronic Freedom Foundation.”

“The FBI can just ask the company for the information—no judicial paperwork needed, no permission required—as long as it can argue later that it’s part of an ‘emergency.’”

“In the age of the Internet, it’s still possible for governments to manipulate the truth. The process has just taken a different shape: Rather than simply banning certain words or opinions outright, it’ll increasingly revolve around second-order censorship—the manipulation of curation, context, and the flow of information and attention. And because the filter bubble is primarily controlled by a few centralized companies, it’s not as difficult to adjust this flow on an individual-by-individual basis as you might think. Rather than decentralizing power, as its early proponents predicted, in some ways the Internet is concentrating it.”

“By using sentiment analysis to figure out how people in a country felt about an event—say, a new arms deal with the United States—and identify the right synonyms to move them toward approval, you could “gradually nudge a debate.” “It’s a lot easier to be close to what reality is” and push it in the right direction, he said, than to make up a new reality entirely.”

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