This is the "Filter Bubbles" page of the "News" guide.
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Last Updated: Nov 15, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Filter Bubbles Print Page


A filter bubble is our personal space that we live in online. It is created by algorithms that select content for us based upon past activity and who we are. The result is that we see content that supports our existing biases and perspectives and are not exposed to opposing viewpoints.





One way to see how filter bubbles work with search engines that do personalization (like Google) is to take a word that can have multiple meanings in different contexts and build up different search histories using those contexts. Then, when you search for the same word after having built up different search histories, the search engine should return results that look a bit different.

For this demonstration to work, you need to be sure to clear your search history before you start each round. This works even better if you have 2 or 3 people working side by side at different computers. That way you can compare the results more easily.

Try this with the word Tea.

1. Have someone build a search history using names of countries where tea is popular or names of countries where teas orgininated. Remember, do not use the word "tea" as a search term quite yet. Examples would be England, Japan, China, Latin America, etc.

2. Have another person build a search history using different spices, herbs, and flowers that make up common teas. Examples would be roses, cinammon, chrysanthemum, lavender, etc.

3. Have a third person search for anything related to politics, such as names of political parties (not the Tea Party just yet, though!), names of political movements, words like "activism," or "conservative" and "liberal."

4. When you are performing these searches, click on some of the results (preferably general ones that might somehow later be connected to tea!). This will contribute to your search history.

5. Finally, have everyone search for the word "Tea." Have fun comparing results!

Credit:  Adapted from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library, Ways of the Web: Filter Bubbles and the Deep Web, 2017



    These are just a few of the websites that tailor results to you and your clicking history:

    Google Amazon Washington Post
    Netflix Yahoo News New York Times
    Facebook Huffington Post Google News


    How to pop our filter bubbles  Nine TED talks about how to pop our filter bubbles and escape our personal echo chambers.

    How to Escape Your Political Bubble for a Clearer View  An article from the New York Times with various ways to escape our political bubbles

    Get Rid of Your Search History

    Your web history provides Google with a lot of information about you and is used to help determine what results Google gives you. To delete your web history:

    1. Go to Google's homepage
    2. Click on your username in the top right corner
    3. Click on "Account Settings"
    4. Click on "edit" next to the "My Products" header
    5. Click "Remove Web History Permanently"

    Delete your Cookies

    The first thing to do to mitigate the effects of the filter bubble is to "burn" your cookies. Cookies are data that your web browser stores when you are on a web site. If permission is enabled, other sites can then tell what you were looking at and use that information to determine what to show you next.

    Click on the links below to learn how to delete your cookies so ad companies can't use them to personalize ads to you:

    Disable Tracking Cookies Feature Altogether

    You can also disable tracking cookies altogether. Follow the directions below for each browser.

    Go Incognito, Or better yet, Anonymous

    Personalizing your browser gives websites information about you. You can stop this by using default settings. You can also use an incognito/anonymous browser, like the ones below:


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