A letter from some members of Congress to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explains how YouTube algorithms have promoted conspiracy theories and political extremism. Citing the attacks on Capitol Hill, they demand changes to its referral systems. pic.twitter.com/eK2ThWvfPc
– Jennifer Elias (@jenn_elias) January 22, 2021
Although the letters acknowledge recent efforts Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have done to better moderate their networks, they conclude that this is not enough to solve the problem of radicalization, especially at the level of these platforms. Lawmakers say the three companies have yet to address the “fundamental” flaws inherent in their recommendation algorithms.
“… Facebook, like other social media platforms, sorts and presents information to users by providing them with the content most likely to reinforce their existing political biases, especially those rooted in anger, l ‘anxiety and fear,’ the letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reads. “The algorithms Facebook uses to maximize user engagement on its platform undermine our common sense of objective reality, intensify marginal political beliefs, facilitate connections between extremist users, and, tragically, lead some of them to commit physical violence in the real world, like what we experienced firsthand on January 6.
The letters also point out that all three companies appear to be aware of the influence their recommendation algorithms have on people, but have decided to do nothing. They then recommend several actions that every business should take. In the case of YouTube, for example, they say autoplay videos shouldn’t be the default, and under no circumstances should the platform recommend someone watch a video about a plot. They also urge the company to move away from a model that puts user engagement above all else.
“We are urging the CEOs of these large social media companies to make permanent, platform-wide changes to limit the frictionless delivery of extreme and radicalizing content – which they have shown they can do. to do but which they consciously choose not to do, ”said Representative Malinowski.
The group is stopping before threatening regulatory action against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but the legislation may not be that far behind. One of the lawmakers who approved the letters was Representative David Cicillin (D-RI), chairman of the Chamber of Judges antitrust subcommittee. Last fall, Democrats on that panel released a 449-page report in which they said Congress should Big Tech Monopolies. As the election draws near, President Joe Biden said the United States should repeal section 230 of the Communication Decency Act make a company like Facebook more responsible for spreading disinformation.