Good for Business, Bad for Society? You Are Being Censored

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As I’ve mentioned before, Google has changed the game of influence. It has also changed the way we get our content delivered to us.

And Google isn’t the only one. Facebook is doing it too. And of course when two giants like Google and Facebook tinker with content filtering, others follow suit. Don’t think you’re going to be any safer using Yahoo rather than Google.

Check out this recent TED speech by Eli Pariser. It’s 9 minutes long, but it is definitely worth the watch. This is something that goes beyond marketing online.

Playing God

Yes, Facebook and Google think they know what content you should be consuming better than you do. And the frightening part of all this, is they really may know what kind of content you want to be consuming…doesn’t mean that it is the same content you should be consuming (as pointed out in the video).

This is really a case of big corporations playing god. They have the power and they are wielding it.

Yes, it may be coming from a place of trying to give users the best experience possible – personalizing each person’s results to give them what they truly want.

But people grow by getting out of their comfort zones. And what people instinctively want is comfort. The two clash with each other.

Let’s take a look at this quote:

 ”A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”  - Mark Zuckerberg

Sounds fairly condescending, doesn’t it?

Business Implications

Let’s take a look at this from a business perspective (since that is what we’re here for).

Several online experts pointed out in my interview series, that publishing is more important than ever. Some went even further…

On the web, you are what you publish. If you publish nothing, then on the web you are nothing. – David Meerman Scott

So now businesses are faced with an environment where they have to publish content, yet the content they publish will likely be heavily filtered.

On the one hand, this makes it easier for most businesses because the content will find its way into the hands of potential clients faster – those people that are actively seeking out like content.

On the other hand, not all online businesses have the goal of selling goods and services. There are organizations that try to change the landscape of society by providing information. Except this information is now being filtered.

Even on Facebook. Just because one of your friends shares something, doesn’t mean you’re going to see it (unless you actively “stalk” them).

So yes, the game of influence has changed. But if the topic is a divisive one, you are more likely to be “influenced” by people who are already sharing the same views.

Getting Around the Filters

Personal Browsing

On a personal level, getting around the filters is fairly easy.

When I do a search, I often do it two ways…

  1. In my regular Chrome browser window. Yes, I often find Google’s actions unacceptable, but I can’t deny that they put out a damn good product.
  2. In an “incognito” window. Chrome offers the option of browsing “incognito.” This kind of browsing doesn’t save cookies – meaning the filters don’t really effect your results.

It’s interesting to see how the results differ between the two – and believe me, the differ!

Business Publishing

Like I said, most businesses will probably benefit from this content filtering. Most businesses are apolitical, and their content is more likely to show up for people who are already actively seeking it out.

Just to have your bases covered, here are a few things you can do to make sure you show up in the results of your target audience…

  • Write about your competitors. Your target audience may already be seeking out information about your competitors. You can “steal” customers by showing up in the results.
  • When publishing videos on YouTube, seek out popular videos on a similar topic. Use the same tags as those videos to show up in the related videos section in the sidebar. You can take it a step further by posting a “video response” to those popular videos.
  • Seek out the influencers in your industry and let them know about your content. Tell them it may be of interest to their audience. If they share it, their entire network is more likely to see it in their search results (again, if it is apolitical).

These are just a few things off the top of my head.

But what happens if your content is divisive or political? Isn’t forcing a discussion the whole point of content like this? How can we have a discussion if the content is being filtered and only people that agree with it see it?

You may have to seek out influencers from the other side of the argument to share your content. Difficult? Most likely.

I think what we have on our hands is a case of “good for [most] business, bad for society.” 

Your Two Cents…

Are Google, Facebook and other content-controlling companies over-stepping their bounds?
Is personalization of  content good or bad (for business….for society?)
Do you want your content filtered like this?


4 Responses to Good for Business, Bad for Society? You Are Being Censored
  1. David

    First off, I want to say that this is a really good post.

    IMO – Google and Facebook are only doing what we allow them to do, in terms of controlling content.

    As far as personalization of content, I can only say that it’s good for business and bad for society, however, as long as I have the ability to browse “incognito” with Chrome, or use other services like XQuick the fact that Google and Facebook filter content is acceptable… For now.

    • Eugene

      Thanks for the comment David. I think it’s “acceptable” because we, as a society in general, allow it to happen. I know that Google and Facebook are filtering content, but how many people in the general population do? My guess is probably not that many.

      A lot of my interactions happen to be online with like-minded people education in the online arena. It’s very easy to forget that most people aren’t as educated in the field. And when you try to talk to someone outside the industry they kind of look at you like a deer caught in the headlights lol.

  2. David

    Come to think of it, maybe you’re right about most people not being aware that content is being filtered.

    After all, judging by the sort of nonsense large portions of Facebook users “talk about” on a daily basis (or what they spend their time doing), I doubt very much they would be aware of such things.

    Even if they were aware, would they care?

    Not to be cruel but, there are a lot of sheep out there.

    • Eugene

      I don’t think that’s necessarily cruel. It’s just a reality. Truth hurts sometimes :) .

      But hey…to each their own.

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