Big Tech ‘Amplification’: What Does That Mean? – The New York Times

Credit…Erik Carter
Supported by

Lawmakers have spent years investigating how hate speech, misinformation and bullying on social media sites can lead to real-world harm. Increasingly, they have pointed a finger at the algorithms powering sites like Facebook and Twitter, the software that decides what content users will see and when they see it.
Some lawmakers from both parties argue that when social media sites boost the performance of hateful or violent posts, the sites become accomplices. And they have proposed bills to strip the companies of a legal shield that allows them to fend off lawsuits over most content posted by their users, in cases when the platform amplified a harmful post’s reach.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee discussed several of the proposals at a hearing on Wednesday. The hearing also included testimony from Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee who recently leaked a trove of revealing internal documents from the company.
Removing the legal shield, known as Section 230, would mean a sea change for the internet, because it has long enabled the vast scale of social media websites. Ms. Haugen has said she supports changing Section 230, which is a part of the Communications Decency Act, so that it no longer covers certain decisions made by algorithms at tech platforms.
But what, exactly, counts as algorithmic amplification? And what, exactly, is the definition of harmful? The proposals offer far different answers to these crucial questions. And how they answer them may determine whether the courts find the bills constitutional.
We are having trouble retrieving the article content.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.
Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.
Thank you for your patience while we verify access.
Already a subscriber? Log in.
Want all of The Times? Subscribe.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top