Social Networking ,Net neutrality and Filter Bubble By Piyush Mordia

I studied in the same school for twelve years. The first friendships of my life began in those childhood days. They gradually evolved and grew into strong bonds as we moved from grade 1 to grade 12. After we passed out, all of us dispersed to various universities in different parts of India and the world.We tried to remain in touch with each other for a few days. Writing letters, exchanging information and trying to meet those whom we could find during our visits to other cities was the only mechanism which held us together for some time. We did not even realize the time when we lost touch.

It was beyond my imagination that I would be able to find my friends and bond with them all over again.The infinite number of social networking sites like Facebook, linked in , twitter, what’s app, my space, Instagram etc have not only got old peers on the same platform but have also introduced strangers having similar interests to each other.Initiation of new relationships is taking place side by side along with reinforcement of old ones. Internet is playing a major role. Social networking is the use of internet based social media programs to make connections with friends, family, classmates, customers and clients.It can occur for social as well as business purposes.

The oxford dictionary defines Social Networking as “ the use of dedicated websites and applications to interact with other users or to find people with similar interests to oneself”. Fast developing social networking sites have become a major media tool which has aided people to develop their personal networks online.The freedom to form groups of ones choice by creating sites on the internet and to lay out ground rules gave a sense of empowerment to all users.

Meanwhile one school of thought emerged which was of the view that internet should be regulated by the government, that differential payments on the basis of content should be made thus making the providers of internet service face discrimination in providing offerings to consumers.It was emphasized that companies like Disney, Google or Netflix should pay internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.This led to worldwide protests and a discussion on net neutrality became necessary and inevitable.

Net Neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that Internet service providers should provide us with open networks and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks.Just as our phone company shouldn’t decide who we can call and what we say on that call, our ISP shouldn’t be concerned with the content we view or post online.

Net neutrality ensures equality of opportunity and a level playing field.No company should be able to interfere with the open marketplace. ISPs, which act as gatekeepers to the internet ,would seize every possible opportunity to profit from this authority which they enjoy.Without net neutrality, marginalized voices may not be heard, start ups may never take off, the sense of freedom on the net may suffer a huge setback.The internet service providers should therefore be compelled to enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Another very important issue of concern regarding internet is the Filter Bubble.According to Wikipedia, a filter bubble is a result of a personalized search in which a web site algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behavior and search history ) and as a result users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles. The choices made by the algorithms are not transparent.Prime examples are Google Personalized search results and Facebook’s personalized news stream.

The term was coined by internet activist Eli Pariser in his book, The Filter Bubble. Pariser further warns that a potential downside to filtered searching is that it “ closes us off to new ideas, subjects and important information” and creates the impression that our narrow self-interest is all that exists.According to him , therefore Filter Bubble is thus potentially harmful to both individual and society.

In my opinion, majority of internet users get benefitted by a personalized search.A person residing in New Delhi wants to know about the price of computer or Lap top. If he searches for a product in that category, the market prices only in Delhi get displayed.All other prices will not be relevant to the user.If he had got the price at which the product is available all over the world, he would have got lost in the maze of data/information otherwise.Filtering of information is essential, therefore, in certain cases.

The solution lies in giving the user a choice between getting exhaustive and complete information or filtered one.The debate is on and any categorical statement on Filter bubble seems premature.

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