It’s not too late for self-regulation: a follow-up

Hi everyone!

Yesterday, Lily and I posted our presentation on echo chambers and social media algorithms:

At the end of our presentation, we discuss potential means of regulation and conclude that a self-regulated framework focused on disclosure and transparency is perhaps the most effective means to deal with the negative effects of algorithmic filtering.

I came across a great article published on WIRED magazine that deals with very similar themes: ‘It’s Not Too Late for Social Media to Regulate Itself’, co-written by an academic and a member of the industry. Interestingly, the article is from 2019, suggesting that in the intermittent time, the urgency felt at the time of writing has not materialized into the development of any self-regulatory organization. This is a downside of self-regulation that we didn’t fully address in the presentation: the initial development of an effective organization requires a lot of momentum and interest, and in a diffuse industry with many stakeholders, it may be hard to translate interest into action. Just some interesting food for thought.

Some highlights from the article:
• As in our presentation, the authors recognize the benefits of personalized algorithms. However, they highlight the potential echo chamber effects and discuss the important goal of promoting public trust “in the integrity of information on search and social platforms.”
• The authors analogize a potential self-regulatory organization to the existing US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which is an SRO supervised by but independent of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Like the tech industry, the financial industry is highly innovative and requires nimble rulemaking to keep pace with rapid change. The authors tout the ability of SRO organizations to “bridge the gap between appropriately slow-moving governments and complex, fast-changing industries.”
• The authors note that a key benefit of self-regulation is the ability of an SRO to “balance the public interest with commercial imperatives”, which would “make a broad framework attractive to all stakeholders involved.” I thought this was a good point. Frequently, in this class and others, we look at regulation from the viewpoint of imposed restrictions – it’s interesting to think about the possibilities of setting up a regulatory system with incentives for industry participation and the potential for support from both the regulators and the regulated.

If you are interested in reading more, the full article can be found here:

– Jennifer Huang

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