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Sir Nick Clegg defends Facebook’s algorithms and calls for ‘ground rules’ for social media

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Sir Nick Clegg has said ‘it takes to two to tango’ as he defends algorithms used by Facebook.

In an article for the social media platform, its vice president of global affairs argues the use of algorithms – a set of rules used in calculations or problem-solving by a computer – can empower people rather than misinform or polarise by filtering to give the most relevant content.

He wrote: “Data-driven personalized services like social media have empowered people with the means to express themselves and to communicate with others on an unprecedented scale.”

And he claimed those using Facebook should not blame algorithms for all we see as wrong with social media.

He added: “In many respects, it would be easier to blame everything on algorithms, but there are deeper and more complex societal forces at play.

“We need to look at ourselves in the mirror, and not wrap ourselves in the false comfort that we have simply been manipulated by machines all along.”

His 5,000 word piece, entitled You and the Algorithm: It Takes Two to Tango, called on the public to make peace with machines and not fear them as our masters.

“The personalized “world” of your News Feed is shaped heavily by your choices and actions”, he said.

Critics of Facebook have claimed its use of algorithms has led to greater misinformation and polarisation among its 2.8 billion monthly active users.

But Sir Nick said this would never be in Facebook’s interest to do this, adding: “The reality is, it’s not in Facebook’s interest — financially or reputationally — to continually turn up the temperature and push users towards ever more extreme content.”

He said the vast majority of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising and advertisers “don’t want their brands and products displayed next to extreme or hateful content”.

The former deputy prime minister, who joined Facebook in 2018, acknowledged there was still a need for “collectively agreed ground rules” on social media platforms and in society to reduce the likelihood “the choices exercised freely by individuals will lead to collective harms”.

Whether this is defined by governments or an independent group of experts was, he argued, profound questions which should not be left to tech companies to answer alone.

“The internet needs new rules for the road that can command broad public consent”, he said, “And tech companies need to know the parameters within which society is comfortable for them to operate, so that they have permission to continue to innovate.

“That starts with openness and transparency, and with giving you more control.”

To that end, Facebook has introduced new controls giving users the ability to restrict who comments on posts, making it easier for people to decide how their News Feed is prioritised, with the introduction of a Feed Filter Bar and making the reasons for suggested posts clearer, by expanding the “Why am I seeing this?” box with more context explaining factors which influenced a recommendation.


All content in this article is for informational purposes only and in no way serves as investment advice. Investing in cryptocurrencies, commodities and stocks is very risky and can lead to capital losses.

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