In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. Presidential Election, the term ‘filter bubble’ has emerged as a popular reason why Hillary Clinton did not become president. The filter bubble “describes the tendency of social networks like Facebook and Twitter to lock users into personalised feedback loops, each with its own news sources, cultural touchstones and political inclinations.” Indeed, essentially every election expert has come to the conclusion that social media sites have an enormous impact on how a country votes and yet, no one can properly assess what is happening behind the scenes. Prof. Philip Howard of the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute argues that while many experts wish to study Facebook, “we can’t, because they really don’t share anything.” Moreover, it appears radical websites pretending to be legitimate news sources have recognised how easily users can be trapped inside the filter bubble, and have used that to their advantage to spread misinformation. This was clearly evident during the American election, but also in other recent political events, such as the Brexit referendum.
Do social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have a moral obligation to adjust their algorithms in order to prevent the spread of misinformation and uphold democracy?