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Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Malinowski letter urges social media sites to change algorithms

By pushing engagement, sites enable radicalization, extremism, congressman says

By Nikita Biryukov, January 21 2021 5:50 pm

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) and a slew of other lawmakers urged CEOs at top social media platforms to change algorithms responsible for radicalizing users and furthering extremism.

“Social media platforms’ algorithms are designed to feed each of us increasingly hateful versions of what we already hate, and fearful versions of what we already fear, so that we stay glued to our screens for as long as possible,” Malinowski said. “In this way, they regularly promote and recommend white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-government, and other conspiracy-oriented material to the very people who are most susceptible to it — some of whom just attacked our Capitol.”

Algorithms on sites like Facebook stress user engagement, a practice that often ends in users developing an echo chamber that shuts out opposing viewpoints and redoubles their beliefs.

The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was in part organized on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), Albio Sires (D-West New York) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) signed onto the letters, which were sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. Alphabet owns Google, which in turn owns YouTube.

“We are urging the CEOs of these large social media companies to make permanent and platform-wide changes to limit the frictionless spread of extreme, radicalizing content — something they’ve shown they are capable of doing but are consciously choosing not to,” Malinowski said.

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