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You and the Algorithm: It Takes Two to Tango



The Social Dilemma was the first mainstream film that captured the manipulative tendencies of many network-based social media companies. Humans were shown as merely faceless victims, controlled by the algorithms and backend. The last decade has proven that social media is a force that cannot be stopped. Beyond simple connections, it has enabled personal advertising and a means for expressing to larger communities.

The article discusses the dynamic, two-way street that the algorithms live on. Personalization is driven by usage and in turn data. We provide our preferences and likes through clicks, views, scrolls, and millions of other metadata points. These signals are continuously ranked and filtered, and though most of these decisions are made by complex algorithms, those algorithms are devised by engineers with little experience in ethics and social standards. Recently, Facebook instituted an Oversight Board to make recommendations on platform, which is the first step in creating a more transparent and tethered platform.

Facebook has adjusted its ranking processes to address issues of misinformation and clickbait. They have moved towards a focus on truly personal information, even while that came with decrease usage. Ultimately, it boils down to
what Facebook is trying to solve.
It has emerged as a generalized platform for all, with groups and pages and events all capable of vast outcomes. It serves as a political platform for some, messaging platform for others, and news site for more. Facebook must construct values and processes for guiding their decisions and algorithmic tuning - in the same light, users skeptical of data usage must educate themselves on the processes powering the ranking, and mark favorites to better tune their site. Social media will continue to evolve and grow enabling communication and discourse at a global scale. Yet like with anything, stable infrastructure is required with such growth - how should the media platforms behave and who dictates the ground rules?

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