The Filter Bubble - part one

Listen to the speaker talking about a book called The Filter Bubble and do the exercises to practise and improve your listening skills.

After doing this page, go to The Filter Bubble - part two to continue listening.


Do the preparation exercise before you listen. Then do the other exercises to check your understanding.

Remote audio URL


Good morning, everybody. Good morning. Hello. Now, have you ever noticed that when you log on to the internet, you nearly always see adverts for things that you're interested in? Yes? OK. So, let's say you were looking for a new pair of trainers last week. Well, suddenly you'll see adverts for trainers all over the place. Well, believe it or not, this isn't random. The internet browsers, websites and apps that we use know a lot about us because they monitor how we use their site or app. This way they can work out what we like and don't like. Clever! So, you've probably heard of cookies. Am I right? Yes? OK. When you visit some sites for the first time, a cookie is downloaded onto your computer that keeps a track on how you travel around the site and exactly what you do. So, the next time you use the site again, your computer will check the cookies and adapt, depending on the information it stored from your last visit. With me? OK. So, without even thinking about it, we give out a lot of information that can then be used to personalise our online experience.

Now, I saw a great presentation last week by the internet activist Eli Pariser and I want to tell you a little bit about it. He wrote a book a few years ago called The Filter Bubble and I think it's something that we should all know about. Here's the book. We actually have it in the school library if you want to borrow it. In this talk I'm just going to give you a little taster. Now, he likens the 'filter bubble' to an ecosystem and he claims it is something that we should all be worried about. Now, after reading his book and watching his talk, I've got to say I agree with him. I think it's something you should all know about too.

So, let me try to explain using a simple example. Imagine I support a political party … so, to keep this really simple let's call it the Yellow Party. OK, so let's say I have lots of friends who also support the Yellows but some of my friends support the Reds. Now, on my favourite social media site I want to see the posts from all my friends but I tend to click more on the links that are posted by my friends who support the Yellows, like me, obviously. Even so, I do still want to see what the Reds are posting about. With me? OK. Now, a few months ago, just before the big elections I noticed something quite weird happening on my newsfeed. I noticed that my friends who support the Red Party had almost completely disappeared from the site, and I was only being shown posts from my Yellow friends. Weird. Now, I wondered if all my Red friends had left this social media space and moved somewhere else, but when I clicked on their profiles to check, I could see that they had been busy posting links and talking to people, but their posts were being hidden from me. And it's only now I understand why. I know it's because I hardly ever clicked on their posts and I didn't interact so much with them. So, the social media site itself had decided for me that I wasn't interested in their posts, so they decided not to show them to me. Now, this is an example of what Eli Pariser means by the filter bubble – it's when the websites and apps choose what information we can and can't see. Does that make sense?


Have you noticed what kinds of adverts and information appear when you're online? Are you happy with this?

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Average: 3.9 (11 votes)
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Submitted by Xfsrt on Fri, 01/19/2024 - 14:36

I've noticed that when I search for a product, afterward, when I enter a new page, advertisements about the product I searched for appear to me.

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Submitted by Elpro202 on Tue, 08/10/2021 - 22:51

Yes, there are so annoying. Anyway, I use an ad blocker xD on my pc, but not in my cellphone.
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Submitted by Kostantinus on Fri, 02/26/2021 - 08:58

I notice all kinds of adverts every day, but I don't care it. Sometimes it can be quite useful, sometimes annoying. Nowadays all people are surrounded by adverts everywhere so you shouldn't be nervous about it. Just ignore it, if you don't need it.

Submitted by amartin on Thu, 04/30/2020 - 10:43

Yes, I have. But I have to say, that, in my ipinion, it can be very useful to find the information you are looking for.

Submitted by amartin on Sat, 04/25/2020 - 16:29

Well, I really have noticed it, and I don't mind it, because the advertisement that usually appear in my newsfeed are things that I like.

Submitted by Askar100 on Sun, 04/21/2019 - 07:07

I think nowadays many people know or suspect about it. And maybe all our Internet life under control, maybe after 100 years people will be under more strong control because of new technology. Is it good or bad I think the time will show us!

Submitted by Dreamyoverflow on Tue, 08/28/2018 - 20:23

Regarding the question adverts have been showing up on my internet browser and it is really disturbing and distracting because I can not focus when I am doing my homework on the computer if I constantly see adverts about shoes I wanted to buy.
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