Can filter bubbles protect information freedom? Discussions of algorithmic news recommenders in Eastern Europe

Mykola Makhortykh, Mariëlle Wijermars*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The increasing use of recommender systems to provide personalized news delivery influences media systems worldwide. Using different data sources to predict what content will be interesting for specific readers, recommender systems can better accommodate individual information needs, but also raise concerns about potential audience fragmentation. However, current assessments of the effects of news personalization are predominantly based on observations from Western democracies. This Western-centric approach raises concerns about these assessments’ applicability to other contexts, in particular non-democratic ones, and brings to question the influence of prevalent Western conceptualisations of news personalization (e.g., filter bubbles) on attitudes towards it in non-Western countries. To address this gap, we scrutinize discussions of the promises and threats of news personalization in countries characterized by limited press freedom: Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Using document analysis, we examine how three categories of actors—academics, journalists and IT specialists—discuss news personalization and the ways it can affect the public sphere. Through our analysis we uncover how Western conceptualisations of news personalization interact with discussions about it in non-democratic media systems and scrutinize whether existing concerns about personalization are applicable to non-Western contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalDigital Journalism
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Belarus
  • Digital news
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • algorithms
  • filter bubbles
  • news personalization
  • post-Soviet
  • JOURNALISM
  • INTERNET
  • PERSONALIZATION
  • FUTURE
  • POLICY
  • SOCIAL MEDIA
  • SYSTEMS
  • RUSSIA
  • DIFFUSION
  • DIVERSITY

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