THE CURIOUS CASE OF ALGORITHMS
At the dawn of the 21st century comes the rise of social media platforms that cater to the needs of viable and real-time information, leisure, and entertainment of modern society. With these demands skyrocketing at an unforeseen pace, these social media platforms have realized that, above all, they should be able to provide a smooth-sailing experience to their users. Through the years they have tried to devise such technology and have been able to improve it to a further extent. The product? Internet algorithm.
Before we start prying onto how the internet algorithm works, let us, first, begin by explaining what it is. The algorithm is designed to deliver and prioritize the display of content that is relevant and fitted to the user's taste and preference. Itfilters an infinite amount of content available on each and every platform to a sizeable media and information diet for the user to consume. To put it into simple terms, the videos, images, or posts that come across the screen of your phone are determinedby the algorithm.
Programmers create algorithms as a means of automation as these tasks can be too difficult for humans to carry out and are more precise and fewer errors are expected to be made. A good example of that is the flow management of data being pumped and the one-by-one analysis of these in the comments and reactions which may considerably improve content selection and discoverability.
With these complexities and intricacies, one may wonder how they do all of these? What are their means? Theanswer is so simple. The data these algorithms take up are all user inputs. It all goes down to our clicks, reactions, views, and comments—our interactions and media consumption. All content on the internet is categorized through tags. One evident exampleof this is the hashtags on TikTok videos which group them into a bunch of content that will be supplied or recommended to the users who have consumed the same type of media based on their views and interactions on the aforementioned social media platform. The other way that it could work around is it could pattern your algorithm to the other users'. This means that the algorithm tries to find compatibility on your media consumption with the others which makes it easier for them to filter and supply you with content.
Now, that we are through with the hows and whats of algorithms, it is time that we tackle how the algorithm has contributed greatly to the spread of culture. Algorithms limit the content being consumed by the user to a limited field or extent which enhances user experience, but at the same time deprives the user of other genres. It also cultivates or stimulates interests and opinions within the community, but is also at risk of being weaponized and used for the purpose of disinformation and propagation of fake news (a topic that can be further discussed in another feature.) Also, there have been a mass number of discussions concerning the possibilities of privacy intrusion by these algorithms as it takes in much of the users' information while they spend time over the internet. While there are pros and cons to the algorithms, it is a must that netizens stay vigilant about their personal data and be aware of the disinformation that is continuing to do harm to the users of the internet. With or without algorithms, our utilization of the internet still lies in our hands.