Facebook and Twitter as public service networks (it's not just about the algorithm)

11 November 2016

It’s pretty clear that the code that chooses what we see on social media needs to be more transparent.

Hopefully, we will start to see governments1 move to some form of regulation model where code can be inspected and held accountable (the UK and US governments are already doing this for the software in gambling machines).

Surely there will also be progress towards explaining how code works, even if the code itself cannot be revealed.

But I worry, that because ‘The Algorithm’ is seen as the problem, that is the only place we look for solutions. I wonder if the question should instead be: “what would a general public service requirement look like for Facebook and Twitter?”

2 thoughts for starters:

  1. Facebook and Twitter should repurpose their advert platforms to also share civic information: things like what is happening in the local area - planning applications, blood donations, items needed by food banks, community meetings. They could start to put the altruistic right next to the selfish 2.

  2. The approach that Google News has taken for marking news articles as fact-checked should become a global standard, should be embedded in the UI of services and as recognisable as the CE product safety marking.

1) It doesn't have to be operated by a government, it could be a new institution setup by the industry, but government seems most likely.  2. I had an unsuccessful attempt at this with [Streetwire](http://web.archive.org/web/20081219040000/http://www.streetwire.org/) back in 2009 (but then it didn't have a global audience of billions!). I am currently working on a platform to try and at least collect information like this in a structured way so that other services could use it.