Still, I get why scientists are calling bullshit on the study, wherein Facebook’s brainiacs conclude, basically, that its secret-sauce algorithm does not keep users from seeing opinions they disagree with.
Don’t blame us for your bias, Facebook is saying. The company wants no responsibility for anything perceived as a negative — like peddling polarization in an already over-polarized world.
But we all know that’s what Facebook does, don’t we? Studies aside, it lets us huddle in our tents and make fun of the people outside it. No self-identified conservative wants to see a lot of posts advocating gun-control and transgender rights and not bombing Iran. I’m sure 99 percent of conservatives think the people who post and share such things are stupid. Facebook takes note. Pretty soon the news feed is all Drudge Report, all the time.
It cuts both ways. Over the last 20 years or so I’ve morphed from a conservative into something like a liberal (thanks, George Bush!) and I know I’m kidding myself if I pretend to entertain a full range of political views. I ignore people who praise Cliven Bundy, or seem to like the NRA too much, or keep equating the president with Hitler. And yeah, even though a few of those folks are family, I’ve wondered if their views aren’t kind of stupid. I treat their shares and posts accordingly. Facebook takes note.
Facebook lives on ads and promoted content. Anything that makes those ads less effective — say, repeatedly showing consumers stuff they dislike — is going to be frowned on at Menlo Park. So it’s pretty disingenuous for Facebook to pretend that it doesn’t encourage bias on an industrial scale. That’s its whole business model: Ferreting out what people like, then giving it to them to the exclusion of anything else. It’s all about the eyeballs.
Which has me fearing a dystopian hell in which, one day, I will see nothing BUT cat videos. Curse you, Facebook. I know I only got what I wanted. But you didn’t have to make it so easy.