Why you should listenShortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Eli Pariser created a website calling for a multilateral approach to fighting terrorism. In the following weeks, over half a million people from 192 countries signed on, and Pariser rather unexpectedly became an online organizer. The website merged with MoveOn.org in November 2001, and Pariser -- then 20 years old -- joined the group to direct its foreign policy campaigns. He led what the New York Times Magazine called the "mainstream arm of the peace movement" -- tripling MoveOn's member base and demonstrating how large numbers of small donations could be mobilized through online engagement.
In 2004, Pariser became executive director of MoveOn. Under his leadership, MoveOn.org Political Action has grown to 5 million members and raised over $120 million from millions of small donors to support advocacy campaigns and political candidates. Pariser focused MoveOn on online-to-offline organizing, developing phone-banking tools and precinct programs in 2004 and 2006 that laid the groundwork for Barack Obama's extraordinary web-powered campaign. In 2008, Pariser transitioned the Executive Director role at MoveOn to Justin Ruben and became President of MoveOn’s board; he's now a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.
His book The Filter Bubble is set for release May 12, 2011. In it, he asks how modern search tools -- the filter by which many of see the wider world -- are getting better and better and screening the wider world from us, by returning only the search results it "thinks" we want to see.
It's one thing to tailor ads for merchandise to specifics for people, but how is anyone's thoughts, ideas or notions of reality going to be challenged to make this a better world, if we only see what we want to see? That is not what the Internet is supposed to be about. We decry governments controlling what is seen on the Internet, but what about Google, Facebook or news agencies deciding simply that you are not up to seeing some particular information? It used to be that the "News was what the news departments said it was"...the Internet was suppose to stop that. So now we have gone from the bad old days of information control to being infantalized by these same groups.
I also wonder just how this control of the flow of information actually tempers people's view of autism and autistic people. What if the truth about autism is not something someone wants to see? What if they believe in the vaccine nonsense or think that autistic people can't function in the real world independently, or they think that all people with mental health issues are violent, so they never see the truth that their assumptions are incorrect? How much damage could this actually do to the future acceptance of marginalized people in society? How much damage could this do to the fight for the civil rights of the disabled? How much damage could this do to perceptions, reality and the world in which we are fighting to create? A bit dramatic you might say? I don't think so. Our perceptions are based upon our reality. If your reality is skewed so are your perceptions.