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The internet, particularly social media, fertilize group behavior from false beliefs. Informational cascades "in which otherwise rational individuals base their decisions not only on their own private information, but also on the actions of those who act before them"... can take on massive proportions ..."

Information Technology Amplifies Irrational Group Behavior

Web tools and social media are our key sources of information when we make decisions as citizens and consumers. But these information technologies can mislead us by magnifying social processes that distort facts and make us act contrary to our own interests ...

New research from the University of Copenhagen, which has just been published in the journal Metaphilosophy, combines formal philosophy, social psychology, and decision theory to understand and tackle these phenomena.

...'group polarization' and 'information selection' ...pose threats to democratic discusson when amplified by online media.

"In group polarization, which is well-documented by social psychologists, an entire group may shift to a more radical viewpoint after a discussion even though the individual group members did not subscribe to this view prior to the discussion. This happens for a number of reasons -- one is that group members want to represent themselves in a favourable light in the group by adopting a viewpoint slightly more extreme than the perceived mean. In online forums, this well-known phenomenon is made even more problematic by the fact that discussions take place in settings where group members are fed only the ctheir worldview, making the discussion forum an echo chamber where group members only hear their own voices,"...

... algorithms that are intended to filter away irrelevant information -- known as information selection -- so that we are only served content that fits our clicking history is, from a democratic perspective, a problem ...


Atheist Nexus is a selective social media environment. However, our narrowness doesn't exclude facts from any secular sources. Information that fits a secular worldview is vast, vast ,vast.

Tags: inherent media bias toward unreason

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Replies to This Discussion

"Companies such as Google and Facebook have designed algorithms that are intended to filter away irrelevant information -- known as information selection -- so that we are only served content that fits our clicking history. According to Professor Hendricks this is, from a democratic perspective, a problem as you may never in your online life encounter views or arguments that contradict your worldview."

Oh! that explains all the information I get on anything from birdhouses, communism, socialism, capitalism, free market economies, Ayn Rand, economics of all varieties, green politics, compost, skunks, etc. 

When you're logged into Google, there's indeed an option at the top of your search results to show "personal" results or not.

Grinning Cat, you are a treasure. I have never paid any attention to these options. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. 

A month ago my oldest daughter's Facebook page had a comment by her that she had just won $50 on a scratcher. Apparently the money came at a time when she really needed it. She posted this for everybody to see and adds "thank you, God" and everyone pipes in to add their 2 cents.

First off we are to assume "god" had something to do with this. Why? Next we have to assume that if she wasn't playing scratch off lottery tickets so much maybe she wouldn't need the money. I can buy the second idea. Chance is a big factor in life and we don't see how much has been lost to "chance" but only when there is a "win." This is why psychics and god are still very popular. Humans only see the "win" part of this most of the time. That's why if god is wrong in the Bible it is explained away, and people never dwell on all the "misses" that the psychic had.

Most people fall into this irrational group and social media amplifies it all. Anything for a buck and they are playing to our superstitions. I think it's always been this way even in more ancient times. That's why people think you are off your rocker not to believe in god when god has been with us for such a long time. They think centuries of wrong belief somehow proves existence.

First off we are to assume "god" had something to do with this. Why? Next we have to assume that if she wasn't playing scratch off lottery tickets so much maybe she wouldn't need the money.

Yahweh:  "I can't do anything for those starving kids in the various African nations that occasionally have famines, but if you need $50 from a lottery ticket, I've got your back."

And absolutely, business of almost every sort benefits from an ignorant and mathematically-illiterate customer base.  Warranty sellers and gambling establishments of all sorts benefit from people not comprehending odds.

Hell, even when I've had failures of products, the replacement part costs were far less than the cost of the warranties would have been for the whole thing.  Not that I could have gotten a warranty for this computer I'm on right now, but if I had been able to, it probably would have cost me about $200 for a 2 year warranty.  I had the power supply blow out once, which cost me around $80 to replace.  And that is the first failure I've had in a computer I've assembled, within 5 years of me constructing the thing, out of 7 or 8 computers that I've assembled.

There's even a business model for electronics, with some items, when they sell the item for slightly less than what they would have to in order to actually make a profit, but they make it up by pushing hard on the extended warranty, which is almost pure profit.  Something like 50% of people buy extended warranties on large electronics purchases, so the retailers come out way ahead by pulling in a few more people with the lowest-available price-point.

On another aspect of the accuracy of your post, Ruth, I have this to add. When I'm searching for my medical problems online I put in certain key words. Most of them come back to me wrong these days. I'm receiving the results of millions of clicks, but my click wasn't considered so much. That's because women who have bloat and stomach problems go to the front of the search result simply by nature of the clicks involved. Then suddenly I'm pregnant or on my period. It's hard to filter this junk out of the main search box and you get contaminated results.

This can happen on any subject, so we need to figure out how to filter things out. Any ideas?

I agree. Key words seem to get me to very strange place that I do not want to go. Porn, for example. I put in a wheelbarrow keyword and get a chesty babe dancing around a pole. Go figure. 

I want an older woman doing a hat-tip, and I get the Marlboro man. 

Heh, I think that's also somewhat a matter of euphemisms, rather than keyword abuse.  Rule 34 comes to mind.

There's also a related but less formalized thought of mine, involving fetishes.  Name any activity, any object, any situation ... someone, somewhere has a fetish revolving around it.

Each of those groups has their own set of euphemisms.  Plus, more mainstream porn also has its own sets.  By the time you're done, there's probably nothing left that hasn't been euphemised in some way.

Which search engine do you primarily use, though?  I don't have this problem with Google.

I have Google Chrome. on a MacBook Pro. 

I use duckduckgo.com as my primary search engine. What attracted me to them was their simple, clean privacy policy: they don't collect or share personal information, and take steps to avoid "search leakage" (sites you end up visiting, and their advertisers, knowing what you searched for).

As a corollary, they also don't (can't) "personalize" your search results (also known as putting you in a "search bubble" of only the stuff you already know about and agree with).

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