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At TED, Eli Pariser Warns of the Dangers of the Filter Bubble

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 2 2011

There's a fascinating moment in Steven Levy's generally fascinating new book "In the Plex" where, a few years back, early Google leader Marissa Mayer distills for agitated Google designers why their work on a product was un-Googley.

"It likes like a human was involved in choosing what went where," explained Mayer, as Levy recounts the episode. "It looks too editorialized. Google products are machine-driven. They're created by machines. And that is what makes us powerful. That's what makes us great." In other words, the magic of Google was in the fact that there were as few flesh-and-blood gatekeepers as possible shaping people's Internet experience.

But now, a few years on, Eli Pariser raises the possibility that we've gone overboard in giving power to the machines. In a just-posted TED talk, the former MoveOn executive director fleshes out the argument that he launched at PdF '10 and the he goes into detail on in his upcoming book, "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You." Pariser argues that by using all sorts of signals we emit to shape the Internet as we see it, companies like Google, Facebook, and others are serving us up not only Internet experiences tailored to our likings, but ones that cater to our desire for immediate gratification. With no editorial forces at work to challenge us, we're getting too much Internet dessert and not enough Internet vegetables.

"It could be a real problem," argues Pariser. Give it a watch.