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How to Take Back Control of What You Read on the Internet

The Atlantic – “How to Take Back Control of What You Read on the Internet Social-media algorithms show us what they want us to see, not what we want to see. But there is an alternative. By Yair Rosenberg. “The social-media web is built on a lie. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enticed countless users to join with the promise that they could see everything their friends or favorite celebrities posted in one convenient location. Over time, though, the sites were carefully calibrated to filter what users saw—regardless of their stated preferences—in order to manipulate their attention and keep them on the platform. Algorithmic timelines quietly replaced chronological ones, until our social-media feeds no longer took direction from us, but rather directed us where they wanted us to go. Lately, this deception has become more transparent. Last month, Elon Musk reportedly had his engineers alter Twitter’s algorithm so that it fed his own tweets to the platform’s users, whether they followed him or not. (Musk denies having done so.) This might seem to say more about Musk’s vanity than about social media in its entirety. But in his typically crass way, Musk was just making obvious what was always the case for his industry. Meta did the same when it launched Meta Verified, a subscription service that promised it would provide paying users with “increased visibility and reach.” These developments underscore a stark reality: As long as we rely on social-media sites to curate what we read, we allow them to control what we read, and their interests are not our interests. Fortunately, there already exists a long-standing alternative that provides users with what social media does not deliver: RSS…” For researchers who have employed #RSS for multidisciplinary research for decades, this is not news, but a good reminder that new applications are not necessarily better applications, and ownership and control over critical technology impacts the scope and validity of our work. We need to continue to be vigilant and exercise choice. See also beSpacific on Mastodon – Newsie Social – where I ‘toot’ daily on many issues including research and technology.

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