Facebook willing to open algorithms to regulators

Facebook app

Facebook has come under fire in the recent past, with various groups and watchdogs wanting the tech giant to take more responsibility in ensuring its users are not addicted, body-shamed or made to feel insecure when using the platform.

Last month, a story we highlighted here showed Facebook is halting the development of a version of Instagram that is designed for kids. This was after they came under massive criticism, with one internal report made public by Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, insinuating that the Instagram App made body issues worse for teenage girls.

Facebook’s criticism has now found its way into the United States Congress, with whistleblowers and lawmakers turning their attention to the tech giant.

“Yesterday we saw Facebook taken off the internet. I don’t know why it went down, but I know that for more than five hours, Facebook wasn’t used to deepen divides, destabilize democracies and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies.” Frances Haugen, addressing the US Congress on Oct 5.

“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they put their astronomical profits before people,” Haugen went on.

“I think we’re going to look back 20 years from now and all of us are going to be like ‘what the hell were we thinking?’ when we recognize the damage that it (social media) has done to a generation,” US Senator Dan Sullivan said.

“Children of America are hooked on their product. There is cynical knowledge on behalf of these Big Tech companies that this is true,” remarked Senator Roger Wicker

The lawmakers are now considering bills that would limit protections against tech giants against being sued and to also increase user-privacy protections.

Facebook’s response

Facebook’s chief spokesman has now said the company is willing to subject itself to greater oversight to ensure its algorithms are performing as intended and are not harming users.

The algorithms “should be held to account, if necessary, by regulation so that people can match what our systems say they’re supposed to do from what actually happens,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs.

Clegg also said Facebook is open to changing a 1996 provision of US law that insulates companies from liability for what users post. Facebook is open to limiting those protections, “contingent on them applying the systems and their policies as they’re supposed to,” he said.

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Thoughts on Facebook opening up its algorithms

I highly doubt Facebook opening up its algorithms will significantly make the situation better as the problem is currently deep-rooted in modern culture.

The measures have to be more radical and ruthless but even then, there are numerous other social media platforms that the US government will find difficult to regulate, especially those based in Asia like TikTok.

I personally think in addition to measures that would ideally be put in place to help young users and teens feel secure online, sensitization and education has to be carried out in schools, teaching our next generation that what they encounter online is most of the time very different from what happens in the real world.

Naftaly is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for tech, video games and pop culture. When he is not writing articles for AndroidKenya, he is probably rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the hundredth time. Email at criskariuki@gmail.com Twitter @KarisNaftaly

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