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Majority want stricter social media regulation


Almost three-quarters of Irish people believe that social media algorithms, that select the content users see, should be regulated more strictly.

The findings are contained in new research from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Uplift which also shows that 82% of those surveyed believe so-called “recommender systems” should be switched off.

Recommender systems are algorithms that determine what users see based on personal data such as search history, past purchases, age and location.

In its draft Online Safety Code, Coimisiún na Meán, the media regulator, has proposed that recommender systems based on profiling be turned off by default on social media platforms.

The ICCL has warned that these algorithms result in inappropriate content appearing in users’ feeds and often promote hate and extremism.

According to the council, emotive and extreme content leads to outrage which in turn leads to people spending longer on a platform. This allows companies to make more with many showing ads to users.

“Social media was supposed to bring us together. Instead, it tears us apart,” said Dr Johnny Ryan, a Senior Fellow at ICCL.

“Users, not Big Tech’s algorithms, should have the freedom to decide what they see and share online,” he said.

“These findings show that the vast majority of the Irish public do not want toxic algorithms interfering in their online lives,” Dr Ryan added.

Siobhan O’Donoghue of Uplift said recommender systems and algorithms are amplifying hate speech and weaponising fault lines within communities.

“It is time social media corporations be made to give users real control over what they see, and be held to account for failing to do so,” Ms O’Donoghue said.

The research was conducted by Ireland Thinks, using a representative sample of 1,270 people, selected across age, income, education, region across Ireland.


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