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.

  • Jordan Kahn

Day 3: 10/8/18

Once again, I dedicated 10 minutes to using each political profile. I started with the conservative profile. Visiting Fox News, Breitbart, and Info Wars has become something of a routine, and I click around on a few articles and videos on each website. I've started to noticed that the suggested articles on these sites, especially Info Wars, have more extreme sounding headlines.

Next up, checking the twitter account for John Stevens, the fake conservative test subject.

Right away, I noticed something interesting. It appears that I had been followed by 2 accounts since the last time I logged in. This was strange to me, as I had not posted any of my own content on my feed.

At first I thought they both might be bots, or accounts run by a computer program rather than a human. However, one of them happened to be the verified account for the local Fox News station in Orlando, Florida. This means someone has to have seen my profile and actively decide to follow it. Both accounts are following tens of thousands of other accounts, which means following me probably wasn't very significant. The other account that followed me may be a bot, as it looks like it just retweets tons of conservative content indiscriminately and follows almost 60,000 accounts.

I also figured that access to abortion was another divisive, hot button political issue. Since conservatives are generally anti-abortion (or Pro-Life), I did some Google searching for some anti-abortion content. I did the same for the liberal profile but with Pro-Choice sites.

I then moved over to the machine running the liberal profile. I repeated the same process as the first profile, only this time visiting sites like MSNBC and The Huffington Post.

Soon after, I logged into the twitter account for Steven Johnson, the fake liberal test subject. In contrast to the conservative Twitter account, it appeared that no one had followed me yet.

Something interesting I did notice with the liberal account is that most of the accounts Twitter suggested that I follow were Hollywood celebrities or sports stars. This was a sharp difference to the conservative account, which seemed to suggest pretty much solely conservative pundits and media personalities.

As always, I took note of the advertisements served to me while browsing on both profiles. Neither of the profiles seem to be giving me any politically motivated ads just yet, but I did discover that on the conservative profile, I was given ads for things like male vitality pills or erectile disfunction medication. On the other hand, the liberal profile seemed to be giving me ads trying to target women like sales on lingerie and underwear. It's interesting that the algorithms seem to be trying to guess my gender based on my political leanings.

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