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When Algorithms Collide: (Failing to) Manage GoT Spoilers Using Science

by Ethan Tussey

by Jamie Henthorn for IN MEDIA RES

 While I had access to the show, I couldn’t watch any episode premiere of Game of Thrones this season. As such, I had to find a way to avoid spoilers for 24 hours after the episode premiere. Demanding that everyone in my social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) not post on the show would be pointless. Talking about needing a work around on social media specifically for GoT lead to a colleague recommending Silencer, a Chrome extension that reviews social media posts for keywords and eliminates ‘spoiler’ posts from one’s feed. Here, it eliminates posts that reference GoT, Lannister, Stark, @gameofthrones, and 42 other terms. GoT is often mentioned in conjunction with promotion of the app by Silencer and blogs like Lifehacker.

As a fan of the show, however, I follow several GoT Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts because, outside of that 24 hour period, I want to hear everything that everyone is saying about the show. My hope was that Silencer would trump social media algorithms, but this was not really the case. Silencer is exceptional at removing friend’s posts from my feed, but corporate sponsored articles and posts always manage to make their way through. Likewise, as a text driven extension, it failed to pick up images when the titles don’t explicitly mention GoT. To qualify, corporate sponsored content is less likely to contain spoilers in its title because it wants individuals to open the link and find out more. For the most part, one can use extensions like Silencer to avoid spoilers so long as she can resist the urge to click on articles from news sources and avoid Tumblr all together.

In a sense, Silencer marks a shift in how we think about the temporal space surrounding spoilers. Individuals gain greater control over their content on social media sites without permanently hiding information regarding the show. Further, individuals can decide on an acceptable time limit on spoilers without confronting fellow fans. However, it practices an erasure of content that in many ways goes unnoticed by both parties. A fellow GoT fan in my network might assume I am part of her audience when I have purposely removed myself for a period. In the same way, content pushed one’s way on Monday morning takes work to find on Tuesday. Avoiding spoilers means missing out on the discussion.

Algorithms and Game of Thrones

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A clip from Game of Thrones

from Game of Thrones (2013)
Creator: HBO
Distributor: N/A
Posted by Ethan Tussey