We use the internet to inform ourselves to see what is happening in the world minute by minute, becoming an important part of our everyday life. We spent a lot of hours digging through it and we have even supplanted other traditional media for this, such as radio, TV, and newspaper.
YouTube has become one of the main sites we go to check out for information and trend topics. The more videos we see on a topic, the more related videos will appear on our main page, thanks to its recommendation algorithm.
However, what happens when you come across political-heavy or conspiracy videos? As we all know, fake news and false information are all around the internet, and sometimes is just really hard to tell truth from lies. The algorithm can work against us by limiting the information due to the recommended content from the videos being watched. This way, YouTube reinforces your beliefs instead of showing you the whole side of the moon. TheirTube provides that outlook and shows more than what you’ve been viewing so far.
How does YouTube look
TheirTube is a project designed by Tomo Kihara, winner of the Mozilla Creative Media Award and founded by the Mozilla Foundation. This project was designed for examining AI’s effect on media and truth.
One billion hours of videos are seen on YouTube each day, 70% of which are recommended videos by an AI, the Google Brain. This makes each user experience super customized and unique. This AI easily identifies videos that are not exactly what you watched but similar, no matter its content.
With that, TheirTube shows us how recommendation engines present different realities to different people. You will have six hypothetical YouTube homepages from different kinds of people, from a conservative to a conspiracist. These homepages were made from the watch history of real YouTube users.
Explore six different views
On TheirTube, you can emulate the YouTube homepages of 6 different users: a fruitarian, prepper, liberal, conservative, conspiracist, and climate denier. To achieve this, different users with similar recommendation algorithms were interviewed. At the same time, six different accounts were created to simulate the interviewee’s accounts.
The users watched the same videos and followed the same accounts as the interviewee so the algorithm creates similar recommendation bubbles. Just like YouTube does, TheirTube updates the recommendations that are shown daily.
You can navigate along the different days and see how the recommendations change. Besides this, you can also see the ‘Watch History’ of each account as if it was your own. As users, we are blind to the algorithm, making TheirTube a good way for us to step outside of our own recommendation bubble and see a completely different point of view.
Make your own recommendation bubble
As the project is open-sourced, the YouTube results are recouped daily. It uses puppeteer, running on node.js, and displayed in the front end built on React. With this, you can create your own YouTube simulation with the code found on Github.
The internet is an amazing tool but we must know that many times we can end up locked in bubbles, generated by algorithms that know what our tastes or political inclinations are. With the limitations of information due to our personal tastes, it’s good to know that TheirTube is one way to see different sides.