Recommending Algorithms


YouTube, the Great Radicalizer  by Zeynep Tufekci 
New York Times, March 10, 2018

In this op-ed, noted technology sociologist Zeynep Tufekci (whose excellent book, Twitter and Tear Gas, is a must-read) wades into the fever swamps of YouTube to argue that the site “may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.” Tufekci points to the use of recommending algorithms, which operate under the assumption that “people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with — or to incendiary content in general” and use that principle to keep viewers’ eyes on the site and, importantly, on the advertisements that YouTube (and its corporate owner, Google) rely on to maintain their business model. Tufecki puts it bluntly: “YouTube leads viewers down a rabbit hole of extremism, while Google racks up the ad sales.” Tufekci goes on to argue that the “situation is especially dangerous given how many people — especially young people — turn to YouTube for information,” an observation familiar to those of us working in schools. It is imperative that educators and school leaders better understand how YouTube and other recommending algorithms influence our students’ pursuit of knowledge. 

Submitted By: Jonathan Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI

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