What’s the most important thing you want to see when you log into Facebook? For many, it is posts from friends and family. Facebook is the easiest way to connect with not only relatives, but also people that you attended high school with.
The Washington Post reported that Facebook has explored what happens when it turns off its controversial news feed ranking system – the software that decides for each user which posts they’ll see and in what order. That leaves users to see all the posts from their friends in simple, chronological order. According to The Washington Post, Facebook’s researchers decided that users are better off with Facebook’s software calling the shots.
In its article, The Washington Post noted that information from whistleblower Frances Haugen argued that Facebook’s algorithm was central to Facebook’s problems. It amplified and rewarded “hateful, divisive, misleading and sometimes outright false content by putting it at the top of users’ feeds”.
Axios reported that a bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced a bill that would require online platforms to let users opt-out of having personal data-driven algorithms select the content they see. It is called the Filter Bubble Transparency Act. The purpose of this bill is “To require that internet platforms give users that option to engage with a platform without being manipulated by algorithms driven by user-specific data.”
There is also a Senate version of the Filter Bubble Transparency Act. It is also bipartisan. The bill would require large-scale internet platforms that collect data from more than 1 million users and gross more than $50 million per year to provide greater transparency to consumers and allow users to view content that has not been curated as a result of a secret algorithm.
Senator John Thune stated on his website that the Filter Bubble Transparency Act “would make it easier for internet platform users to understand the potential manipulation that exists with secret algorithms and require large-scale platforms to allow those users to consume information outside of that potential manipulation zone or ‘filter bubble’”.
Personally, I’ve always thought that the algorithms used by social media companies are manipulative. In my opinion, non-chronological algorithms are used to evoke rage and/or fear in users, and also are a pipeline to spread misinformation. We would all be emotionally healthier if we could opt-out of the imposed algorithm and into a chronological timeline of self-selected topics and users.