Journalism, the Filter Bubble and the Public Sphere
Author: Mick Kelly
"The influence of social media platforms and technology companies is having a greater effect on American journalism than even the shift from print to digital.”
(Bell and Owen, 2017)
This is the conclusion of a study released in March 2017 by researchers from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism who investigated a journalism industry reacting to controversies about fake news and algorithmic filter bubbles that occurred at the time of the US presidential election. The report noted the following key points:
• Technology companies have become media publishers
• Low-quality content that is sharable and of scale is viewed as more valuable by social media platforms than high-quality, time-intensive journalism
• Platforms choose algorithms over human editors to filter content, but the ‘nuances of journalism require editorial judgment, so platforms will need to reconsider their approach’.
The report states that news might currently reach a bigger audience than ever before via social media platforms such as Facebook, but readers have no way of knowing how data influences the stories they read or how ‘their online behaviour is being manipulated’. (Bell and Owen, 2017)
This video assignment reveals that the debate has existed since 2011 when Eli Pariser wrote The Filter Bubble, which explained how data profiling led to personalisation and the algorithmic filtering of news stories. The theme of this video is the impact of this robotic process on journalism within the public sphere, and includes an interview with Jim Grice, who is Head of News and Current Affairs at London Live.
Bell, E. and Owen, T. (2017) The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley reengineered journalism. The Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Available from:
https://www.cjr.org/tow_center_reports/platform-press-how-silicon-valley-reengineered-journalism.php [Accessed 30 March 2017]