Opinion

3 Ways to Increase Social Media Platforms' Transparency

Vasant Dhar

By Vasant Dhar

By Vasant Dhar

The rise of social media platforms is correlated with increased political polarization in the U.S. As much as President-elect Biden might promise to unify the nation, we face an algorithmic headwind from social media platforms that have created just the opposite thus far, immunized as they are from any consequences of their ad-driven business model. 

In the upcoming November 17 hearing on “Censorship and Suppression of News Articles” featuring the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook, lawmakers should focus on crafting rules that achieve the degree of operating transparency that has made the U.S. financial system the most trusted system in the world. They should recall that banks misbehaved for decades as long as no one was looking. Over time, we fixed the major problems across the industry through increased transparency.

At the moment, there is virtually no transparency of how social media platforms operate. Do they care about the purposes and goals of their users? Do we know what their recommendation and targeting algorithms do all day long and why? Do they keep an audit trail of their interventions against users, advertisers or content, let alone the consequences of their actions? If we wanted to examine the political content published and disseminated on a platform a few years ago in order to determine whether a crime was committed, can we access the history?

Read the full The Hill article.

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Vasant Dhar is Professor of Information Systems.