Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Google Play Newsstand now also has a web version — beware of filter bubbles

Google Play Newsstand already was one of my favorite ways to find articles about topics I’m interested in on my phone and tablet, but the service now also has a web version. 

Recently, Google Play Newsstand was redesigned on mobile and that is officially announced today: “[The redesign] focuses on three big improvements: personalization, rich media, and the extension of our platform to the web.” 

Just like with more and more Google apps nowadays, the new Newsstand uses machine learning to find the best articles for you. The app now shows a personalized briefing when you open it, but of course you can also browse your favorite topics. Each article has a feedback option, so if you’d like to see less about Donald Trump, you can tell Google so by simply clicking a “show me less” button.
If available, articles will load in the AMP format and there is support for videos and nice images.
The dangers of personalized news
Apart from fake news, personalized news also could give an unrealistic view of the world. If a user could literally say “don’t show me this, but more of that”, he will end up with a list of articles that includes only topics he likes and opinions he agrees with. This is not different on Facebook or Twitter of course where you can first of all follow only the people you want to follow and tell the platform you liked a post. This way, during the election a lot of people will have seen more positive stories about Trump and more negative stories about Clinton and vice versa. 
News has always been personalized in some way obviously. People have always decided what newspaper they bought and which news broadcast they watched and maybe news is never really objective, because it’s written by humans, but with all the options available today, you are the editor in chief of your own newspaper — your reality. This is called a filter bubble and I think  it’s important people are aware of this and companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter should make sure the bubble doesn’t become a fortress. 
The new Newsstand is available for AndroidiOS and the web.