Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: ‘We can do more to provide algorithmic transparency’

·Technology Editor
·4 min read
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Washington. The committee summoned the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google to testify during the hearing. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey will tell lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on extremism and misinformation on Thursday that he wants the social media company’s users to trust decisions it makes when moderating controversial content.

To do that, Dorsey, who will appear alongside Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google (GOOG, GOOGL) CEO Sundar Pichai, says the social network will not only increase transparency into why it decides to take action against some accounts and not others, but address one of the biggest issues facing social networks: How their algorithms function.

“We believe that people should have transparency or meaningful control over the algorithms that affect them,” Dorsey said in written testimony submitted ahead of the hearing. “We recognize that we can do more to provide algorithmic transparency, fair machine learning, and controls that empower people.”

Dorsey’s statement strikes at the heart of one of the biggest most important aspects of any discussion regarding disinformation and misinformation. Algorithms used by social networks have been blamed for pushing users to ever more extreme content.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a 2018 internal Facebook report found just that, indicating that the algorithm pushed users to more divisive content and increased interactions with extremist groups on the platform. Google’s YouTube algorithm has faced similar criticisms in the past, as well.

Dorsey plans to address the question of algorithms by pointing to Twitter’s efforts to make the use of such technologies clearer to its users.

This combination of photos shows from left, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. After an angry mob of President Donald Trump supporters took control of the U.S. Capitol in a violent insurrection, Selena Gomez laid much of the blame at the feet of Big Tech. It’s the latest effort by the 28-year-old actress-singer to draw attention to the danger of internet companies critics say have profited from misinformation and hate on their platforms.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, LM Otero, Jens Meyer)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will appear before the Commerce Committee alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, LM Otero, Jens Meyer)

“The machine learning teams at Twitter are studying techniques and developing a roadmap to ensure our present and future algorithmic models uphold a high standard when it comes to transparency and fairness,” Dorsey said in his testimony.

Thursday’s hearing will mark the third time Dorsey and Zuckerberg have appeared before Congress to discuss misinformation, disinformation, and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That law provides liability protection for websites and platforms that host user-generated content. It also allows sites to moderate that content.

Some Republicans say 230 allows social media sites to censor conservative voices, while some Democrats say it allows social networks to leave up disinformation and misinformation without facing any consequences.

Dorsey and Zuckerberg are likely to face harsh questions from conservative members of the Commerce Committee for banning former President Donald Trump from their platforms following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Zuckerberg’s Facebook has turned the ultimate decision of what to do with Trump’s Facebook accounts over to its oversight board, which will determine if Trump should receive a permanent ban or have his profiles reinstated.

Twitter, which served as Trump’s de facto bullhorn throughout his presidency, banned Trump outright after the attack. The company is now seeking user input on how to deal with world leaders who use its platform.

Dorsey will also use Thursday’s hearing to tout Twitter’s upcoming Birdwatch tool, which is in its pilot stage and takes a community-driven approach to dealing with disinformation. Essentially, users around the world will be able to point to content that is false or misleading on the site.

“We hope that engaging diverse communities here will help address current deficits in trust for all,” Dorsey wrote in his testimony.

Dorsey will also discuss Bluesky, a set of open-source standards that Twitter is developing for social media networks.

“Bluesky will eventually allow Twitter and other companies to contribute to and access open recommendation algorithms that promote healthy conversation and ultimately provide individuals greater choice,” Dorsey said. “These standards will support innovation, making it easier for startups to address issues like abuse and hate speech at a lower cost.”

Bluesky, however, is still far from being released as a complete package, and Congress is looking for solutions to its grievances sooner rather than later.

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