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Evaluating News: "Fake News" and Beyond: Filter Bubbles

Confirmation Bias

“What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” -Warren Buffett

Buffett's quote is a great illustration of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias refers to the tendency of individuals to favor information which confirms their pre-existing beliefs or ideas. Confirmation bias is a problem because failing to interpret information in an unbiased way can lead to serious misjudgments. By being aware of the existence of confirmation bias, we can learn to identify it in ourselves and others. We can be wary of information or data that seems to immediately support our views, and thus make better unbiased decisions.

What is a Filter Bubble?

"Filter bubble" refers to a phenomenon that occurs with many of the websites that we use: algorithms (mathematical equations) use our search history and personal information to tailor results to us. So the exact same search, using exactly the same search words, can return different results for different individuals. This is called personalization.

How to Burst Your Filter Bubble

Now that we know what a filter bubble is, let's look at a few options for limiting the effects that "filter bubble" can have on what we see:

Adapt browser settings:

Deleting cookies, clearing search history, and adjusting browser settings can be a good start to ​getting outside of your filter bubble. See links below for more information on how to do this.  

Browse incognito using anonymizers:

​Search engines such as DuckDuckGo and StartPage by Ixquick do not store your search history or personal information, they do not use targeted ads, and will never share your information with third parties. You will have a completely private and uncustomized browsing experience, therefore eliminating some of the effect of the filter bubble.

Seek out information that is contrary to your beliefs:

​If everything that you are encountering seems to confirm the beliefs that you already have, it's a pretty good sign that you just might be caught in a filter bubble. Search for alternative viewpoints to see what the other side has to say.

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