financialsense.com / STRATFOR / 10/11/2017
The “fake news” problem isn’t just about “alternative facts.” The problem has more to do with the spin, the narrative, the context that inclines you to believe, for example, whether there was or was not collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and officials of the Russian government. And the problem is that 60 percent of Americans get their news through social media, mostly Facebook, which uses mysterious algorithms to customize each of our news feeds, selecting all and only what interests me, as computed from every time I press “Like” or forward an article to friends.
It’s not just Facebook. Sit with a friend or, better yet, a friendly enemy — someone you know has political views contrary to your own — and, using your own devices, type the same entries into your respective Google search windows. Try “BP,” standing for the oil company that used to be British Petroleum but tried rebranding itself as Beyond Petroleum. You and your friendly enemy — perhaps your crackpot brother-in-law? — are going to get different results from your searches because of what Google knows about each of you and what you’ve searched before. If you are an avid environmentalist and he’s a rabid lefty, you’ll get more results about the environmental effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster while he’ll get more about its nefarious corporate causes.
Trending Toward Personalization
Personalization has a long and illustrious history, best understood in contrast with its opposite, the mass market of the post-World War II boom. The structure of that marketplace featured mass production that reduced costs with economies of scale. The customer was a mass market that was only gradually differentiated, first by demographic characteristics — age, income and education — and later by psychographics such as likes, dislikes, values and personality traits.