Social media giant Facebook, now under the umbrella company Meta Platforms, has been in the headlines over the last six years due to curating content and misusing private data.
In early 2022, Apple and Google changed their privacy policies in a sweeping attempt to provide more transparency in how user data was held and distributed to third parties. Much of this data was used in targeted advertising campaigns and relied upon by social media giants.
Facebook, among others such as Twitter, also used this user data to profile users and curate different pages and experiences. This includes various posts in feeds, different news aggregations, and different post ordering to generate the most amounts of engagement.
The concerning question here is, are the social media algorithms intentionally suppressing and promoting news information based on factors outside the user’s profiling?
Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code provides general immunity to website platforms for hosting third-party content, such as social media posts. Specifically, section 230 reads, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
This section is a significant positive in the fight for freedom of speech on the internet. It has allowed the hosting of user-created videos, reviews, classified ads, social posts, and more without putting the platform hosting these posts at risk of liability.
As algorithms, content moderation, and content curation becomes more complicated and automated behind proprietary code, it becomes more challenging to determine if these content hosting platforms are acting in the best interests of their users.
Facebook has testified multiple times in front of Congress due to privacy and post/news curation policies. Twitter has often ignored requests for audits by the US Senate and other individuals due to theories of suppression and shadow banning users and curation of content. Other smaller social media companies have come under similar suspicion in recent years.
If section 230 changes to explain the difference between hosting and curating, this could mean social media companies will become liable for some of the content they host. Specifically, this could mean these companies will become responsible for the content they curate for users.
Facebook has taken a step towards distancing itself from social media and focusing on metaverse technologies. This news came with a name change to Meta Platforms.
Twitter and its shareholders decided to accept the buyout offer from Elon Musk, and immediately the platform began acting differently. Some accounts were flooded with new engagements and users. Some accounts lost a lot of followers and engagements. It has been speculated that Twitter accepted the offer to divest from traditional social media and remove themselves from liability risks that come with a change to Section 230.
If these rules are opened up for change, care needs to be taken to ensure freedom of speech and a free internet remains while opening some platforms up to liability risks.