From October 24, 2022 - November 30, 2022 IT for Change participated in deliberations of the Working Group convened by the Forum on Information and Democracy which came out with a report on how to ensure pluralism of news and information in curation and indexing algorithms.
The report comes at a time when digital platforms are becoming major sites for news production, distribution, and consumption. The algorithms that these platforms employ for curation and indexation determine what news and information comes into user awareness, which in turn shapes civic attitudes and beliefs.
The Working Group's final report is now published and makes several important recommendations addressing both states and platforms. The Report highlights how platform recommender systems affect news production, distribution, and consumption, and consequently the plurality and diversity of information in society. It points to the shortcomings of the existing policy approaches and identifies a set of new policy remedies to promote plurality and diversity in platform recommender systems. These new policy approaches include: promoting alternative incentive structures and business models, promoting unbundling of content hosting from content curation, aiming for open and interoperable recommender systems and a decentralized market for the same, ensuring that default recommender system of platforms support safety and pluralism, rigorous implementation of privacy and data protection rules, empowering users with enhanced control over the content recommended to them, transparency requirements and media and digital literacy skills, safeguarding access to trustworthy news and information vital to the public interest, and holding platforms liable for knowingly and intentionally amplifying content that a reasonable person could comprehend as harmful.
Pursuant to our inputs, the Report included a recognition of the potential of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a normative basis to impose human rights obligations on platforms and to govern the working of their recommender systems. The report also voiced our concern that platform recommender systems can hinder individual autonomy and have a long-term impact on users’ ability to participate in democracy in their capacity as citizens.
Read the full report here.