Wednesday October 06, 2021
Personalized Algorithmic Amplification and Its Discontents
“Our social media feeds are full of unbidden and fringe content, thanks to social media's embrace of two key technological developments: personalization, spurred by mass collection of user data through web cookies and Big Data systems, and algorithmic amplification, the use of powerful artificial intelligence to select the content shown to users. ...
”When data scientists and software engineers blend content personalization and algorithmic amplification — as they do to produce Facebook's News Feed, TikTok's For You tab and YouTube's recommendation engine — they create uncontrollable, attention-sucking beasts. ... They perpetuate biases and affect society in ways that are barely understood by their creators, much less users or regulators. ... Social media platforms [also] have a fundamental economic incentive to keep users engaged. This ensures that these feeds will continue promoting the most titillating, inflammatory content.
“The solution is straightforward: Companies that deploy personalized algorithmic amplification should be liable for the content these algorithms promote. This can be done through a narrow change to Section 230, the 1996 law that lets social media companies host user-generated content without fear of lawsuits for libelous speech and illegal content posted by those users.
”As [Facebook whistleblower Frances] Haugen testified, 'If we reformed 230 to make Facebook responsible for the consequences of their intentional ranking decisions, I think they would get rid of engagement-based ranking.'“
-- Roddy Lindsay, ”I Designed Algorithms at Facebook. Here's How to Regulate Them," a guest editorial in The New York Times