Slow progress on algorithms | Otago Daily Times News Online

In her commencement address at Harvard University last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stressed the urgent need for the responsible development and deployment of online algorithms.

“Let’s start with transparency about how algorithmic processes work and the results they produce. But let’s end with a shared approach to responsible algorithms, because now is the time,” she told the prestigious gathering.

The forums for online providers and social media companies to work on these issues alongside civil society and governments were there, and “we have every reason to do so,” she said.

But it’s hard not to be skeptical about the speed of progress in this area.

The commercial success of Internet platforms depends on the very processes that trick our eyeballs into staying online for as long as possible by providing us with more and more content that technology has determined will be of interest to us. The substance of that content matters little to the bottom line.

This month, following the murder of 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo in the United States, it was reported that the 18-year-old accused of the crime had been inspired by the live broadcast of the attack on the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre.

Much has been made of the early removal of the Buffalo live stream from Twitch, an Amazon-owned game streaming service, but there are also reports of some video clips and images still circulating.

The fact that the New York Times this month, during a 24-hour search, found more than 50 clips and links online with images of the Christchurch shooter, across at least nine platforms illustrates how the Action so far has only been able to achieve reduction rather than eradication. .

As the New York Times said, these clips and links weren’t hard to find, even though Facebook, Twitter and other platforms pledged to eradicate the images in 2019 as part of the Christchurch Appeal .

Journalists also noted some of the ways that those who share found toxic content circumvent detection attempts by big platforms. This begs the question of why platforms aren’t doing more themselves.

In addition to the internet’s contribution to the kind of radicalization that leads to atrocities such as those that occurred in Christchurch, there are growing concerns about the impact of the spread of disinformation on democracy.

We need look no further than the lengthy protest outside Parliament earlier this year to better understand the risk. Research by The Disinformation Project has shown how the more moderate aims of the initial convoy have been replaced by extremist and more violent xenophobic supremacist views. He found that a dozen people at the occupation created the most widely viewed content online. In many cases, misinformation and misinformation pages on Facebook have garnered greater engagement than mainstream media outlets that are subject to checks and balances.

Ms Ardern encouraged her Harvard audience to watch how they chose to engage with information, manage conflict and how they approached ‘being baited or hated’ and making the choice to process difference with empathy and kindness .

It might be a lot easier for someone who has benefited from a Harvard education than for someone who has low literacy skills and hasn’t developed critical thinking skills. Their understanding of the power of the algorithm might be limited to annoyance at the plethora of ads they receive about something they just purchased online.

It seems fanciful to think that tech giants will work more urgently to stop the spread of misinformation and enable transparency around their algorithms with softer or even harsh words, whether from our PM or other world leaders. They’ve had years to do it, and they clearly don’t lack the money to fund real change if they were so inclined.

The regulations are heavy and complex, of course, accompanied by cries of denial of freedom of expression, as if all freedom were an absolute and did not come with responsibilities. However, that shouldn’t rule it out.

Sharon D. Cole