FIGURE:Senator John Thune.
Thun, chairman of the Senate's business committee, said at a hearing on "convincing technology": "The powerful mechanisms behind these platforms that attract people to increase participation mean that they may also affect the thinking and behavior of billions of people. ”
Thun’s comments represent a relatively new front in Washington’s growing focus on the impact of large technology platforms on consumers. Policymakers are beginning to focus on the algorithms of these platforms, which are potential areas of regulation and a way to deal with controversial online content such as hate speech and false information.
Thun cited Bloomberg's April survey of Google's YouTube site, which failed to handle fake, inflammatory, and toxic content because the site tried to increase page views and the amount of time people spend on its platform. Thun said: "This survey shows that the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms to optimize participation may have unexpected, and perhaps even dangerous, negative effects."
Thun also said that his proposed bill would allow users to exclude their data from the content publishing platform. He said: "Congress must play a role in ensuring that companies have the freedom to innovate, but at the same time they must put the interests and well-being of consumers at the forefront of corporate progress."
Maggie Steinfield (Maggie Stanphill), Google's director of user experience, said in testimony that the company did not use "persuasive technology", but that increasing the transparency of the algorithm in determining what users saw would be "a good transitional step". She also believes that it would be a good thing to strengthen human supervision of content decision-making.
Stanfield said that YouTube recently modified its algorithm for recommending content, which reduced the number of pageviews of problematic content by more than half. Videos that are not recommended "are almost in violation of our policies, or spread harmful error messages."
But Brian Schatz, a member of the state-of-the-art Democratic Party, has doubts about Mr. Stanfield's claim. He said the company should take a "Legal and financial responsibility" of the performance of the algorithm.
In an interview after the hearing, Mr. Shatz said they had invited Susan Wojcicki, YouTube's chief executive, but that Google sent Mr. Stanfield. Mr. Stanfield repeated that the question was not within her mandate. Mr. Shatz said he wanted the tech company to send its executives to technology and privacy hearings, but Google did not respond immediately to his request. (Small)