THE MISSION

The goal of this experiment is to glimpse into the seemingly mysterious and methodical ways that algorithms shape our experience online. I’m hopeful that my findings will allow me to inform others about how their own online activity is being used to feed them content.

 
 
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  • Jordan Kahn

Day 2: 10/7/18

To start off today, I allotted myself 15 minutes per profile. I first chose to work on the conservative profile by going to some general conservative websites (Fox News, etc.). I then realized that I had forgotten about InfoWars, which is a extremely far right news organization known for promoting fringe conspiracy theories. I decided that this website would be good to frequent in order to get the algorithms to push me more polarized content farther down the line.

Since training Google's search algorithm probably won't yield the most immediate results, in addition to just using search, I created an email and twitter account for each profile (one with conservative views and one with liberal views). I named the conservative profile John Stevens , and set up a twitter account that follows prominent users that reflect his views. I did the same for the liberal profile which I named Steven Johnson. Both accounts were created under different, brand new emails on different computers, so there should be no overlapping data between the two. To be as consistent as possible, both profiles are males that were born on July 4th, 1988 (30 years old).

In addition to following people, I liked and retweeted some of their posts. This extra engagement should also feed into the algorithms and drive its outputs. Here is a current list of Twitter accounts followed by John Stevens:

  • Donald Trump

  • Senator Chuck Grassley (R)

  • Fox News (Network)

  • Tucker Carlson (Fox News Anchor)

  • Sean Hannity (Fox News Anchor)

  • Laura Ingraham (Fox News Anchor)

  • Tomi Lahren (Conservative Pundit)

  • Melania Trump

  • Mike Pence

  • Senator Mitch McConnell (R)

  • Senator Susan Collins (R)

  • Senator Jeff Flake (R)

Conversely, here is the liberal profile.


After setting up the conservative Twitter account, I then moved on to the liberal one. Once the Twitter account was set up, I followed some politically relevant accounts and engaged with a few posts. The current accounts followed by Steven Johnson are:

  • Barack Obama

  • Joe Biden

  • MSNBC (Network)

  • CNN (Network)

  • Steven Colbert (Talk Show Host)

  • Trevor Noah (Talk Show Host)

  • Bill Maher (Talk Show Host)

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D)

  • Senator Kamala Harris (D)

  • Senator Bernie Sanders (D)

  • The New York Times

  • The Washington Post

At this point, I was out of time on both profiles. As I was looking through both the conservative and liberal websites, the advertisements I'm being shown don't appear to have any bias just yet. I'm still getting pretty general ads like ones for home insurance and car insurance, so I don't think Google's search algorithms have enough data on either profile to make any judgements just yet.

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