Technologically scaffolded atypical cognition: the case of YouTube’s recommender system

Alfano, M., Fard, A. E., Carter, J. A. , Clutton, P. and Klein, C. (2021) Technologically scaffolded atypical cognition: the case of YouTube’s recommender system. Synthese, 199(1-2), pp. 835-858. (doi: 10.1007/s11229-020-02724-x)

[img] Text
217807.pdf - Accepted Version



YouTube has been implicated in the transformation of users into extremists and conspiracy theorists. The alleged mechanism for this radicalizing process is YouTube’s recommender system, which is optimized to amplify and promote clips that users are likely to watch through to the end. YouTube optimizes for watch-through for economic reasons: people who watch a video through to the end are likely to then watch the next recommended video as well, which means that more advertisements can be served to them. This is a seemingly innocuous design choice, but it has a troubling side-effect. Critics of YouTube have alleged that the recommender system tends to recommend extremist content and conspiracy theories, as such videos are especially likely to capture and keep users’ attention. To date, the problem of radicalization via the YouTube recommender system has been a matter of speculation. The current study represents the first systematic, pre-registered attempt to establish whether and to what extent the recommender system tends to promote such content. We begin by contextualizing our study in the framework of technological seduction. Next, we explain our methodology. After that, we present our results, which are consistent with the radicalization hypothesis. Finally, we discuss our findings, as well as directions for future research and recommendations for users, industry, and policy-makers.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Work partly supported by Australian Research Council Grant DP190101507 (to M.A. and C.K.) and Templeton Foundation Grant 61387 (to M.A.).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Carter, Dr J Adam
Authors: Alfano, M., Fard, A. E., Carter, J. A., Clutton, P., and Klein, C.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Journal Name:Synthese
ISSN (Online):1573-0964
Published Online:09 June 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Springer Nature B.V.
First Published:First published in Synthese 199(1-2): 835-858
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record