It's Time to Open the Black Box of Social Media

Thu, 28 Apr 2022 04:30:00 GMT
Scientific American - Technology

Social media companies need to give their data to independent researchers to better understand how...

Social media platforms are where billions of people around the world go to connect with others, get information and make sense of the world.

Despite the fact that social media has become one of our most important public forums for speech, several of the most important platforms are controlled by a small number of people.

All these companies have a history of sharing scant portions of data about their platforms with researchers, preventing us from understanding the impacts of social media to individuals and society.

Such singular ownership of the three most powerful social media platforms makes us fear this lockdown on data sharing will continue.

After two decades of little regulation, it is time to require more transparency from social media companies.

Social media companies are stingy about releasing data and publishing research, especially when the findings might be unwelcome.

The only way to understand what is happening on the platforms is for lawmakers and regulators to require social media companies to release data to independent researchers.

Lawmakers and regulators frequently ask us to better explain why we need access to data, what research it would enable and how that research would help the public and inform regulation of social media platforms.

Do other algorithms used by other social media platforms show systemic political bias as well?

Social media companies ought to welcome the help of independent researchers to better measure online harm and inform policies.