Reps. Urge Big Tech to Address Algorithmic Aid to Extremism

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) have written the heads of Facebook, Twitter and Google asking them to face up to and fix the "fundamental design features of their social networks that facilitate the spread of extreme, radicalizing content to their users," the sort of radicalizing that resulted in the attack on the Capitol, they pointed out.

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They said that maximizing user engagement as the basis for algorithmic promotion of news content provided a digital echo chamber for platforms for radicalization, platforms "designed, built, and maintained" by the companies.

They said the companies were at least partially responsible for "undermining our shared sense of objective reality, for intensifying fringe political beliefs, [and] for facilitating connections between extremists, leading some of them to commit real-world, physical violence."

Eshoo, whose district includes Silicon Valley, pulled no punches. 

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"For years social media companies have allowed harmful disinformation to spread through their platforms, polluting the minds of the American people," said Eshoo. "Online disinformation is not just about removing bad content. I see it as largely a product design issue. The algorithmic amplification and recommendation systems that platforms employ spread content that’s evocative over what’s true," she said. "“The horrific damage to our democracy wrought on January 6th demonstrated how these social media platforms played a role in radicalizing and emboldening terrorists to attack our Capitol. These American companies must fundamentally rethink algorithmic systems that are at odds with democracy.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.