This is the area of policy that addresses the “magic” of social media platforms. These are the algorithms that drive the delivery and placement of content on our newsfeeds, group recommendations, the targeting of advertising, and the results that are returned from a seemingly innocuous search. As with data privacy, the EU appears to be several important steps ahead of the US in unifying behind policies that target this unseen and very powerful aspect of social platforms.

These two EU strategic initiatives are part of a larger EU Strategy, A Europe fit for a digital age”:

  • The Digital Services Act – These rules seek to protect consumers, require transparency and accountability, allow for greater democratic control over platform functioning and the risks posed.

  • The Digital Markets Act – These rules apply to “large online platforms” and address how the platforms function as gatekeepers for other services and businesses. The would rules would serve to provide a more competitive environment for business developers and more real choice for consumers.

Both of these are highly readable, summary-style documents. The ideas are presented at a high level and can be understood by a non-technical audience. While the devil is in the details, this type of presentation helps demystify and knock down barriers that have guarded technology systems for so long. The US should prioritize similar comprehensive, accessible and future-facing strategies.

In her 2018 article, Free Speech is Not Free Reach, Renee DiResta addresses the algorithms that amplify the content as opposed to the content itself, bringing responsibility back to big tech.

But in this moment, the conversation we should be having—how can we fix the algorithms?—is instead being co-opted and twisted by politicians and pundits howling about censorship and miscasting content moderation as the demise of free speech online. It would be good to remind them that free speech does not mean free reach. There is no right to algorithmic amplification. In fact, that’s the very problem that needs fixing. — Renee DiResta