Should we filter "alt right" content recommendations in "Discover"?

One user requested we filter alt right podcasts from the content suggestions. A discussion emerged about whether (the host of) the podcast in question is alt-right, about the responsibility AntennaPod has over content suggestions coming from iTunes.

An argument thrown into the debate claimed that AntennaPod is ‘neutral’, claiming that we have no control over the content that we recommend (as they’re provided by iTunes). Neutrality of technology in general and AntennaPod in particular can be topic of discussion. Claiming we have no control over content we suggest is straight-out nonsense.

This is about what content this app is actively recommending to users. And there’s always a decision based on political views. The only question is where I, you or we as a community draw the line.

I wholeheartedly agree, and I think we gotta take responsibility here. Editorial responsibility, for editorial questions. That’s not to say I’m arguing per say for filtering individual feeds per se. But there’s got to be more options than just accepting as a fact of life that our app recommends racist content.

I think we should discuss further the possibility of blocking specific content from the suggestions. But if we agree to doing so, we’d need to draw up some qualifications and processes for this first (which is a long and complex road). A slightly less complex, but still challenging path is getting new content sources, which would give us more flexibility in handling/moving away from iTunes.

We also can take some technological quick fixes, which slightly improve the situation:

  • make specific that the suggestions come from directly iTunes (signalling where a large part of the editorial responsibility lays)
  • let users block specific podcasts (feeds) from being proposed any-more on their device
  • make it possible for users to select a different region for their suggestion sources

About the last one: currently AP takes the locale for the device to determine which content suggestions to retrieve (as @ByteHamster explained). Yet I guess that there are many users like me who have their language/locale set to English, while they’re actually based or focused elsewhere. Presenting more localised (relevant) content suggestions, the app would better account for local norms and expectations (national filter bubbles, as it were). (A similar thing has actually been requested before - though that’s focused on making on-the-fly changes in the discover screen, while I think it’d be better to have this an app-wide setting, and it should be possible to select multiple regions to source from).

1 Like

Sorry, I do not think this is a task we can handle. We can not dive into each and every podcast to decide if it should be recommended. New podcasts appear faster than you can deal with that. AntennaPod is used in 179 countries - we can not filter recommendations from all of those countries.

Additionally, having such a block-list in place, we could filter out add whatever topics we do not like. This sounds a lot like censoring, even if we came up with guidelines what to block. We would need a whole team of users who agree on every single filter to prevent single users from doing strange stuff (just look at what some authorian regimes do). When implementing such a list, we can no longer claim that AntennaPod is free and neutral.

The recommendations are generated automatically based on popularity. Manually working against an automatically generated list by looking at the content of specific podcasts is a game we can not win. Therefore, I would rather not start it in the first place. In contrast, if we manually recommend something (Twitter, screenshots, website, …), I am totally convinced that we should only use “friendly” podcasts there.

I think new content sources will also sometimes contain content we do not like. A new podcast directory might solve this specific case but it will not be a permanent fix.

Those improvements sound good to me. At the same time, I think that we can not do much more than that.

There is a difference between locale and language. Locale is language+country. So if you set your locale to English (Netherlands), you will see AntennaPod in English language but with recommendations from the Netherlands.

1 Like

I have been thinking of the ability to hide individual feeds from the discover tab that I will never subscribe to. These feeds are always the top 10.

The way we could try doing this, is to long hold on the thumbnail, and and ‘x’ appears. I tap the ‘x’ and the feed will not appear in Discover and search

I think options to filter could be good. However I personally believe it should not be the default. I do not like this cancel culture where people are being shadow banned for different views even if they are reprehensible. That’s part of the greatness of podcasts. We get to choose what we listen to, if you don’t like it keep scrolling. That’s also where filtering could help, an option to hide a podcast completely?

1 Like

I don’t think that this project should be in the business of deciding which opinions are dangerous or unacceptable. Inevitably people from either side of the political spectrum will argue that their opponents have unacceptable, racist, dangerous views etc, even when this is not true or highly questionable. This becomes censorship, and even if it starts with good intentions, it ends with loss of freedom and oppression.

2 Likes