Investigate social media algorithms in fight against disinformation: Dutch MPs
Government parties D66 and CDA want to tackle the growing problem of disinformation spread on social media platforms. And the first step is broad investigation into the algorithms platforms like YouTube and Facebook use, parliamentarians Kees Verhoven (D66) and Harry van der Molen (CDA) said to the Volkskrant.
Everyone knows that social media platforms use algorithms to determine what their users see, ranging from videos they might like to ads targeted specifically at them. But at the same time, these algorithms aren't transparent and verifiable.
Social media platforms want their users to stay on them as long as possible, because the longer a person is on the platform, the more ads they see, and the more money the platform makes. So users get recommendations based on things they previously viewed or clicked on. A byproduct of this is that sensational posts and videos are given priority, because they get more attention. Another problem is that users increasingly fall into their own "bubble", as they only see posts confirming their worldview.
The parliamentarians will therefore file a motion for these algorithms to be investigated. As there is no 'algorithm watchdog', they want the Dutch data protection authority AP, the consumers and markets authority ACM, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, and the Court of Audit to do this investigation.
What they hope to achieve with this investigation is strict supervision on the way consumers are targeted on social media, or maybe even an outright ban on this use of algorithms.
According to Verhoeven, a simple explanation with a video is not enough. "The internet user takes it for granted. Perhaps you should go much further and prohibit those platforms from making recommendations based on algorithms," he said to the newspaper. "It is not up to the government to ban certain information because it is incorrect. No, we have to zoom in on the algorithms. What are the choices of the social media companies based on?"