Ireland ‘leading the world’ in regulating Big Tech algorithms

Ireland 'leading the world' in regulating Big Tech algorithms

Ireland’s first draft online safety code should be treated as a model for Europe, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said.

Coimisiún na Meán last week began consulting on the draft online safety code for video-sharing platform services, which sets out measures that designated video-sharing platforms will be obliged to implement to keep their users, especially children, safe online.

ICCL has welcomed proposals to regulate recommendation algorithms, which the consultation document says can lead to “toxic” feeds full of harmful content.

Dr Johnny Ryan, a senior fellow of ICCL, said: “Coimisiún na Meán is leading the world by forcing Big Tech to turn off its toxic algorithms. People — not Big Tech’s algorithms — should decide what they see and share online.

“The European Commission should learn from Coimisiún na Meán’s example, and give everyone in Europe the freedom to decide.”

The civil rights group says algorithmic “recommender systems” select emotive and extreme content and show it to people who the system estimates are most likely to be outraged. It suggests these outraged people then spend longer on the platform, which allows the company to make more money showing them ads.

Coimisiún na Meán has proposed that video-sharing platforms should be obliged to prepare, publish and implement a recommender system safety plan which mitigates risks that their recommender systems may cause harm.

In doing so, platforms must at least consider various measures including having recommender algorithms turned off by default and not allowing data collected from adult users’ accounts to inform recommendations for children.

Dr Ryan said: “Social media was supposed to bring us together. Instead, it tears us apart. Europe needs a rapid response to this problem, and Coimisiún na Meán has shown the way forward.”

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