Middleware can ensure exposure to diverse content, but could make social media platforms open to cyberattacks

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February 17, 2021 5:00 AM

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has suggested market-based regulation rather than increasing government interference.

Going digital, there is little doubt, increased newspaper readership, but the bulk of online advertisement accrues to the BigTech giants like Google and Facebook; so, while the advertiser has shifted from traditional media to online media, those generating the news are getting a smaller share of the pie.Going digital, there is little doubt, increased newspaper readership, but the bulk of online advertisement accrues to the BigTech giants like Google and Facebook; so, while the advertiser has shifted from traditional media to online media, those generating the news are getting a smaller share of the pie.

Given the backlash social media platforms are facing over data privacy, fake news and creating echo chambers, there are many who have called for these platforms to be broken up and subject to regulation. Some are even advocating revoking the protection provided to them under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the US. However, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has suggested market-based regulation rather than increasing government interference.

To that end, a column by Barak Richman and Francis Fukuyama in the Wall Street Journal, suggests that a better idea would be to introduce middleware to control what goes on the internet. The authors, both academics, say that users should be given a choice between companies that can operate and curate content for them. If companies can sift through posts and create personalised content, it would mean enough competition and ample user choice.

However, the approach has its limitation. Social media companies will have to share the sourcecode with third-party players, which may weaken security. Besides, who’s to say that some of these platforms won’t create questionable content? After all, despite Google’s standards, some apps on the Playstore have been known to leak data. A better idea, thus, would be to urge Twitter and Facebook to tweak their algorithms.

The companies can do so by presenting one alternative view for every five views users see based on their leanings. The choice on accessing such posts or not would still lie with the consumer. Further, governments can force companies to spend more resources to monitor content on their platforms. The more content moderators the companies have, the easier it would be to monitor flagged content.

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