How Will The US Congress Decide To Regulate Facebook?

The last couple of weeks must have been hectic for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. We could talk about the 6+ hours blackout that we all experienced on Facebook and its related social media platform. However, there’s a more critical issue at hand for Facebook, and it involves the US Congress. 

This is the whistle-blowing by Frances Haugen, a former employee at Facebook, who showed the US lawmakers some internal documents to prove how Facebook negatively affects children. The platform is well aware of it. She also urged that the US Senate make regulatory changes to demand more accountability from Mark Zuckerberg and address the misinformation that Facebook’s algorithm promotes. 

In reality, discussions about regulatory changes for social media platforms, including Facebook, are not new. The new education that the senators got from Frances’ whistle-blowing indictment of Facebook and the unified commitment of the members of the US Congress to take any action is the new deal. 

For Facebook users, it is common knowledge that you are responsible for the pages you follow, groups you join, and the people you are friends with. However, you don’t determine which posts you see on your feed and those you don’t see. That’s entirely up to Facebook and, from Frances Haugen's testimony, that’s where the problem lies. 

There’s a software making that decision for every user following a secret formula by Facebook, which includes over 10,000 factors. This software is called “the algorithm.” Facebook’s news feed algorithm is extremely powerful, given that the platform has close to 3 billion users, and it determines what each person sees on the platform. This means that it has a high influence over people’s lives, more than any media mogul or government. 

The Facebook algorithm is that powerful guy who handpicks what comes on your feed. It may decide to show you a post about your friend’s wedding but may not show you a post from your high school days discussing science facts. 

The goal of the algorithm is to get your attention. So, you best believe that if your old schoolmate was making posts and memes demonizing other people that you don’t like, or they are posting some interesting conspiracy theories, then you are going to see that post come up on your news feed. Not when they are out for dinner or discussing boring science facts. And this is a significant point that critics of the platform agree to. Now it is backed by Frances’ testimony. 

Like with other social platforms like youtube, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram, the Facebook algorithm is highly attention-seeking and personalized for individuals. This is something that Frances Haugen pointed to as the core of the threat social media is posing to society today. 

According to Haugen, a significant consequence of the way Facebook picks out content is that the algorithm is optimized to show content with a high level of reaction and engagement from people. However, its research into the post indicates that it contains polarizing, divisive, or hateful content. So why is it showing such content to more people, considering that people can be more easily inspired to anger than other emotions?

There was a significant backlash against Big Tech before Haugen’s testimony, and her disclosure has increased the urgency about the debate on social media, Facebook mainly, and how to regulate it.

With advocates and lawmakers seeking solutions to the present problem, a new approach has been proposed, which will lead to a massive policy change on Facebook. This new approach is to regulate Facebook’s algorithm itself or do something that makes the company more responsible and accountable for the algorithm’s effect. Whether this can be achieved or not is yet to be seen. Two of the biggest obstacles to this are: the first amendment and the possibility of playing foul on it, and the second one is that it may ruin many people’s love for social media. 

Conclusion 

There’s still a long way to go for the US congress to determine what to do on Facebook regulation, but it will be interesting to see how it unfolds. 

Eliza Sadler is a professional journalist with extensive experience, four years. She also works as a freelancer and writes a lot of articles. She always focused on doing quality work to achieve her goals and objectives. Eliza is fascinated by the ability to create original works that meet high standards. Feel free to connect with her by email.

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Eliza Sadler is a professional journalist with extensive experience who writes for Best Essays

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