President Putin has vowed to kill off Facebook’s AI-powered newsfeed algorithm so that users are free to disable the Big Tech giant’s biased recommendation system.
The Putin administration is working on a new law that would force social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to give users the option to disable all recommendation algorithms, or face prosecution.
Sources within the State Duma announced that the new law will be introduced later this year will will oblige tech giants such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to allow their users to disable the far-left algorithms.
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The announcement of the new Russian law comes a few weeks after Putin vowed to “punish Facebook” for failing to remove pedophilia content from their platform.
Rt.com reports: Anton Gorelkin, a member of the Committee on Information Policy, told Kommersant that the document is in its final stages. “It involves the regulation of recommendation services of social networks. Their transparency is important.” He added that “whether online movie streaming sites will also fall under the regulation is up for debate.” Gorelkin also wrote in recent days that “recommended algorithms are adjusted so that there is always fake information, provocations, and bullying throughout the user’s feed.”
Last month, following Russia’s parliamentary elections, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the algorithms used by social networks were distorting the conversation online and furthering the interests of other nations. “When I check Twitter recommendations on who to follow – of course, the first person who comes up is Navalny, who is serving a criminal sentence. Isn’t this interference in the affairs of a foreign country? It’s blatant interference,” Medvedev alleged.
Irina Levova, the director of strategic projects at the Institute for Internet Research, argues that greater legal attention should be paid to algorithms on the basis of how the suggested content affects users. “If the system is capable of having a significant impact on the rights, freedoms and well-being of people and poses risks to life, health and property, additional requirements should be established for it,” she said. However, Levova added that mechanisms used to boost services for businesses do not carry such threats.
However, some businesses fear they will lose out on maximizing their reach to customers if algorithms are restricted. Mikhail Ilyichev, general director of the Sber.Zvuk audio service, told Kommersant that businesses could see a fall in financial incomes, as disabling the recommendation mechanism will mean that the user sees less targeted advertisements based on cookies and browser history.
This is not the first time that social networks have faced criticism from the Russian government. Last week, the country’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said after the global outage of Facebook’s platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp, that the fault highlights the failures of the California-based conglomerate and the need for Russia’s own sovereign internet capabilities.
“We must understand that such a blackout can happen at any second, based on the processes that are now gaining momentum in the US,” Zakharova said. “Yesterday they showed you everything. We aren’t cutting ourselves off, but their technologies are failing to such a degree that three and a half billion people were cut off.”