philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


How to Monitor Fake News

By Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2013 to 2017, is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School.

21wheelerWeb-master675The editorial decisions of a newspaper or television news program are immediately apparent (articles published, segments aired) and so can be readily analyzed for bias and effect. By contrast, the editorial decisions of social media algorithms are opaque and slow to be discovered — even to those who run the platforms. It can take days or weeks before anyone finds out what has been disseminated by social media software.

The government should require social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to use a similar open application programming interface. This would make it possible for third parties to build software to monitor and report on the effects of social media algorithms. (This idea has been proposed by Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google employee who helped organize the Tahrir Square uprising in 2011.)

And one effective form of information-sharing would be legally mandated open application programming interfaces for social media platforms. They would help the public identify what is being delivered by social media algorithms, and thus help protect our democracy.

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