Why Youtube's algorithms push extreme content on every possible subject
Zeynep Tufekci was researching Trump videos on Youtube back in 2016 when she noticed something funny: Youtube began recommending and autoplaying increasingly extreme right-wing stuff -- like white-supremacist Holocaust-denial videos.
So she did an interesting experiment: She set up another Youtube account and began watching videos for the main Democratic presidential contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The result? As Tufecki writes in the New York Times:
Before long, I was being directed to videos of a leftish conspiratorial cast, including arguments about the existence of secret government agencies and allegations that the United States government was behind the attacks of Sept. 11. As with the Trump videos, YouTube was recommending content that was more and more extreme than the mainstream political fare I had started with.
Intrigued, I experimented with nonpolitical topics. The same basic pattern emerged. Videos about vegetarianism led to videos about veganism. Videos about jogging led to videos about running ultramarathons.
It seems as if you are never "hard core" enough for YouTube's recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.
This is an incredibly interesting and subtle point: That the problems of Youtube's recommender algorithms might be that they overdistil your preferences. Since they're aiming for "engagement" -- a word I am beginning to loathe with an unsettling level of emotion -- the real problem with these algorithms is they're constantly aiming to create an epic sense of drama and newness. At the tail-ends of this bimodal attentional landscape, only the Xtreme can survive. And of course, this precisely leverages our novelty-seeking psychology, which really does snap to attention when we're presented with intense stuff.
So it's not that Youtube radicalize politics specifically. It radicalizes everything, and politics just gets swept along in the slurry of zomg.
(CC-licensed image above via Pixabay) *Madison is a city located primarily in Madison County in the northern part of the State of Alabama. Madison extends west into neighboring Limestone County. The city is included in the Huntsville Metropolitan Area and is also included in the merged Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 42,938. Madison is bordered by Huntsville on most sides. Contents 1 History 2 Geography 3 Demographics 4 Economy 4.1 Personal income 4.2 Industry 5 Education 6 Media 7 Infrastructure 7.1 Roads 7.2 Rail and airline 8 Notable people 9 References 10 External links History Southern Railroad Depot, Madison, Alabama Madison's first resident was John Cartwright, who settled in the area in 1818. The city was originally known as Madison Station, and grew up in the 1850s around a stop of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Madison was the site of a battle in the American Civil War on May 17, 1864, when Col. Josiah Patterson's 5th Alabama Cavalry, supported by Col. James H. Stuart's cavalry battalion and a section of horse artillery, drove Col. Adam G. Gorgas's 13th Illinois Infantry Regiment from the city. Patterson's men captured the 13th Illinois Regiment's wagon train, taking 66 prisoners. They also burned Union supplies and tore up the railroad tracks before retreating. Portions of the 5th Ohio Cavalry, the 59th Indiana Infantry and the 5th Iowa Infantry were sent in pursuit from Huntsville and skirmished with Patterson's rear guard that evening at Fletcher's Ferry on the Tennessee River south of Madison. More recently, the city has become a fast-growing suburb of Huntsville. In 1980, the population of Madison was about 4,000. As of the 2010 census the city's population is 42,938. Geography According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.7 square miles (77.0 km2), of which 29.6 square miles (76.6 km2) is land and 0.12 square miles (0.3 km2), or 0.45%, is water. Madison is located at 34°42'54?N 86°44'23?W (34.715065, -86.739644), primarily within Madison County. Demographics Historical population Census Pop. %± 1880 410 — 1900 412 — 1910 426 3.4% 1920 435 2.1% 1930 431 -0.9% 1940 455 5.6% 1950 530 16.5% 1960 1,435 170.8% 1970 3,086 115.1% 1980 4,507 46.0% 1990 14,904 230.7% 2000 29,329 96.8% 2010 42,938 46.4% Est. 2014 46,450  8.2% U.S. Decennial Census 2014 Estimate As of the census of 2010, there were 42,938 people residing in the city, an increase of 44.6% from the 29,329 residing there in 2000. The population consisted of 16,111 households and 11,770 families. The average household size was 2.65, while the average family size was 3.16. 30.8% of the population was age 19 or younger, 61.0% was 20-64, and 8.2% was 65 or older. The median age was 37.0 years. The population was 49.3% male and 50.7% female. The racial makeup of the city was 74.0% White, 14.6% Black or African American, 0.5% Native American, 7.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.3% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. 4.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. According to the Madison Chamber of Commerce, Madison was the fastest-growing city in Alabama as of 2010. Economy Personal income The median income for a household in the city was $92,136, and the median income for a family was $111,217. The per capita income for the city was $41,490. About 3.9% of families and 4.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.9% of those under age 18 and 3.4% of those age 65 or over. Industry Madison's largest employer is Intergraph, a computer software company based in Madison. They are currently working on a streetlight maintenance program. Thousands of Madison residents commute to Cummings Research Park and Redstone Arsenal in nearby Huntsville. Within the city limits, most of Madison's businesses are retail, with stores and fast-food restaurants lining US 72 to the north and Madison Boulevard to the south. Education The Madison City School System, formed in 1998, serves over 8,400 students from the city of Madison and town of Triana. As of 2012, the school system has seven elementary schools serving grades K-6 (Columbia Elementary School, Heritage Elementary School, Horizon Elementary School, Madison Elementary School, Rainbow Elementary School, West Madison Elementary School, and Mill Creek Elementary), two middle schools serving grades 7-8 (Discovery Middle School, Liberty Middle School), and two high schools serving grades 9-12 (Bob Jones High School, James Clemens High School). Madison also has several private schools, including Madison Academy, Lindsay Lane Christian Academy, St John the Baptist Catholic School, and Westminster Christian Academy. Madison Elementary School is the oldest school in the system (est. 1936) Media The Madison Record and the Madison County Record have been newspapers for the city since 1967. The Madison weekly news is also another local newspaper. Infrastructure Roads Madison is served by Interstate 565, US 72 (University Drive), and Madison Boulevard (Alabama State Route 20, and Alt. US 72) as main routes for east-west traffic. Slaughter Road, Hughes Road, Wall Triana Highway, and County Line Road are main north-south roads in the city. Rail and airline The Norfolk Southern railway has a main line and a spur running through Madison. The Port of Huntsville, an intermodal center which includes Huntsville International Airport and a rail cargo center, is just south of the city. Notable people Mike Ball, member of the Alabama House of Representatives Kerron Johnson, professional basketball player Walter Jones, former offensive lineman at Florida State and an all-pro at the Seattle Seahawks Robert Hoffman, actor, dancer, and choreographer Bill Holtzclaw, Republican member of the Alabama State Senate since 2006. Reggie Ragland, American football linebacker
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