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Extended Audio Sample The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, by Eli Pariser Click for printable size audiobook cover
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In December, 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser, Google’s change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years—the rise of personalization. In this groundbreaking investigation of the new hidden Web, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society—and reveals what we can do about it.

Though the phenomenon has gone largely undetected until now, personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook—the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans—prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal, you can expect to see only progressive links. Even an old-media bastion like the Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes, a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zappos.

In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs—and because these filters are invisible, we won’t know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas.

While we all worry that the Internet is eroding privacy or shrinking our attention spans, Pariser uncovers a more pernicious and far-reaching trend and shows how we can—and must—change course. With vivid detail and remarkable scope, The Filter Bubble reveals how personalization undermines the Internet’s original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated, echoing world.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Eli Pariser is no enemy of the Internet. The thirty-year-old online organizer is the former executive director and now board president of the online liberal political group MoveOn.org. But while Pariser understands the influence of the Internet, he also knows the power of online search engines and social networks to control exactly how we get information—for good and for ill.”

    Time magazine

  • “A powerful indictment of the current system.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “[An] important new inquiry into the dangers of excessive personalization.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Fascinating…a compelling deep-dive into the invisible algorithmic editing on the web, a world where we’re being shown more of what algorithms think we want to see and less of what we should see.”

    Atlantic

  • “Pariser’s vision of the Internet’s near future is compelling.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Chilling.”

    New York Review of Books

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Steve | 5/9/2011

    " Smart, fascinating and more than a little bit scary. "

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About the Author

Eli Pariser is the board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens’ organizations in American politics. During his time leading MoveOn, he sent 937,510,800 emails to members in his name. He has written op-eds for the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal and has appeared on The Colbert Report, Good Morning America, Fresh Air, and World News Tonight.