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Regulating algorithmic filtering on social media
Sarah Cen · Devavrat Shah

Thu Dec 09 04:30 PM -- 06:00 PM (PST) @ None #None

By filtering the content that users see, social media platforms have the ability to influence users' perceptions and decisions, from their dining choices to their voting preferences. This influence has drawn scrutiny, with many calling for regulations on filtering algorithms, but designing and enforcing regulations remains challenging. In this work, we examine three questions. First, given a regulation, how would one design an audit to enforce it? Second, does the audit impose a performance cost on the platform? Third, how does the audit affect the content that the platform is incentivized to filter? In response, we propose a method such that, given a regulation, an auditor can test whether that regulation is met with only black-box access to the filtering algorithm. We then turn to the platform's perspective. The platform's goal is to maximize an objective function while meeting regulation. We find that there are conditions under which the regulation does not place a high performance cost on the platform and, notably, that content diversity can play a key role in aligning the interests of the platform and regulators.

Author Information

Sarah Cen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

PhD student at MIT EECS. Working with Prof. Devavrat Shah in Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems. Research on topics including causal inference and responsible ML. Have previously worked on self-driving cars, robotics, information networks, and multi-armed bandits.

Devavrat Shah (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Devavrat Shah is a professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Director of Statistics and Data Science at MIT. He received PhD in Computer Science from Stanford. He received Erlang Prize from Applied Probability Society of INFORMS in 2010 and NeuIPS best paper award in 2008.

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