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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Pluralism of News and Information in Curation and Indexing Algorithms

Tuesday , 21 February 2023

On the occasion of the Unesco conference "Internet for Trust", the Forum on Information and Democracy (I&D) published on February 21 a series of recommendations on the pluralism of curation and indexing algorithms, for the attention of States and digital platforms.

Ensuring pluralism in content curation is a priority for the Forum on Information and Democracy

This is a major issue identified by the Forum on Information and Democracy, the implementing body of the Partnership of the same name signed by 50 democratic States: tools used for curating and indexing information – meaning aggregating, sorting and prioritizing information – must provide alternative solutions, allowing for a pluralism of indexation, and allowing for freedom of choice for users.

To implement this principle, the Forum makes several recommendations to States and digital platforms, including:

➔ Separate the hosting and curation of content functions to open up the algorithm market to competition

➔ Ensure that platforms offer their users several options for curating and indexing content, including non-algorithmic options

➔ Support, through public funding, the development of technical standards that promote content diversity on online platforms

➔ Require platforms to disclose content selection criteria so that users can choose the algorithms they will use

The report also proposes several ways to give users the power over algorithms, in particular through a better control over their personal data used to profile and target them with specific content. For the authors of the report, several solutions should allow users to more easily get out of the filtering bubbles in which they are trapped:

➔ Give users more control over the content they see by strengthening transparency requirements and offering users the right to customize their feeds

➔ Ensure that alternative options are accessible and understandable to the general public

➔ Require platforms to implement interoperability measures, making it easier for users to switch services

These recommendations will be addressed to the 50 member states of the International Partnership for Information and Democracy, which meets at annual summits on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to implement democratic principles in the digital space.

The risks of algorithmic bubbles for democracy and freedom

The attacks on democratic institutions such as the Capitol in Washington or Planalto in Brasilia are a major concern for the future. According to the members of the report, they are the result of a threatening groundswell for democracies: the polarization of public debate, if not the fragmentation of societies, linked to the functioning of digital platforms and social networks.

Moreover, the report highlights the business model of platforms, based on the attention economy, which encourages misinformation, conspiracy theory and the exacerbation of tensions between individuals, social groups and political camps. This radicalization of points of view and opinions tends to polarize democratic societies, to the detriment of a pluralist logic.

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