What is an algorithm?
a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer
~ Oxford Dictionary
Google and Facebook use algorithms to improve the experience for their audience. In computer speak an algorithm is a set of instructions designed to perform a specific task – it is basically like a recipe used to assist you to navigate to where you want to go, without you typing that you want to head there.
I mentioned in my final six step marketing strategy for small business post about marketing that after you look at something you might then be shown more in your Facebook or web feeds, this is because a bot has been programmed with an algorithm to monitor what is read or clicked on to send more of the same. It is a very fluid and intuitive process and is why it feels like Facebook is watching you or that Google is listening to your conversations. It is how Spotify also knows what songs to recommend and why YouTube feed you similar videos.
A gamer is not going to be sent a video to watch on knitting, and by the same token a young mum is not going to be sent a link to automotive parts.
There is no-one at one of these companies watching or listening to you to then program your feeds but it can feel like it.
Many controversial issues and situations can be attributed to people being led by fake news portrayed as real, and we as humans encourage this. Algorithms, lacking the human element, do not know if they are sending fact or fiction unless they are told. If you investigate an ideology then algorithms can convince you by only providing you information that encourages this train of thought believing this is what you want to see. It will not necessarily show you the other side of the coin that you would see via the news on TV or in a newspaper.