Facebook, show us your secret recipe

Author: 

[Commentary] The power of Facebook, Twitter, Google and others, and the democratic threat that they represent, comes not from the content they show but how they show it. The closed algorithms that drive their feeds and streams also shape and bound our associational spaces. These systems know who we meet with, they determine who we hear from and they decide which voices we cannot escape. As a result, these digital companies have become arbiters, managers and record keepers of our associational lives. We need to reclaim our right to associate as we please — to meet with and listen to those we choose and to control who knows what about those gatherings. Digital companies know how all this works; their algorithms and data make it happen. But they keep that knowledge hidden from us.

[Lucy Bernholz is a senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society and director of the Digital Civil Society Lab.]


Facebook, show us your secret recipe