In what could see a potential policy fight, and I must congratulate OfCom to even think on these lines, social media companies can be forced to open source their algorithms:
Twitter, TikTok and other big social media sites could be forced to disclose the codes behind their feeds in an effort to stop young people from being served news that drives them to extremes, the UK’s media regulator has said.
Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom chief executive, told the Financial Times that she was becoming ever more worried by evidence suggesting news feeds are aggravating divisions in society, while the algorithms determining what users see receive little public scrutiny.
The premise is simple. Companies exist for harvesting data. Though, the same data is prone to “misuse”, which means the companies cross their hearts and lay out extensive privacy policies, claiming it won’t be used for “nefarious” purposes. While mainstream media has made superficial perfunctory noises and did some virtue signalling, there has been no pushback against the lazy reporting done by them.
OfCom’s suggestion could literally set the cat among the pigeons. There will be a lot of flutter and chaos, but the PR pushback (and possibly lobbying) could effectively kill the initiative. More important in an era when layoffs are happening, and no politician wants to endanger their careers from tough stance being questioned on big tech (which also funds their campaigns).
We are a long way off. Still better than nothing.