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Unveiling the Veil: Demanding Transparency from Tech Platforms

2 Mins read

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The Changing Landscape of Knowledge Gatekeepers

In today’s information revolution, traditional gatekeepers of knowledge have given way to technological gatekeepers. Librarians, journalists, and government officials have been largely replaced by search engines, AI chatbots, and social media platforms. However, unlike their predecessors, these new gatekeepers prioritize profit and shareholder interests over public accountability.

The EU’s Bold Experiment

The European Union is spearheading a groundbreaking initiative to curb the power of Big Tech. The Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, set to take effect on August 25, are comprehensive regulations aimed at holding tech platforms responsible. These reforms grant users the right to appeal content removals, offer algorithm choices, and ban microtargeting based on sensitive information. Moreover, large tech platforms must conduct audits to assess the impact of their algorithms on democracy, human rights, and user well-being.

A Critical Decision Awaits

While the EU’s regulations demand accountability from tech platforms, the question of whether journalists will have access to crucial platform data remains unresolved. Journalists have historically played a pivotal role in exposing harms, enabling researchers and regulators to take action. However, obtaining data from platforms has become increasingly challenging, with Facebook and Twitter being particularly restrictive. The EU must determine whether journalists will be granted access to this vital information.

The Vital Role of Journalists

Journalists are at the forefront of uncovering how tech platforms are weaponized by despots, trolls, marketers, and hate mobs. For instance, Rappler, a news outlet in the Philippines led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, has exposed how social media is used to spread disinformation, manipulate public opinion, and attack independent journalism. Yet, with limited access to platform data, the ability to continue this important accountability journalism is jeopardized.

Advocating for Transparency

Prominent voices, including Maria Ressa and experts like Daphne Keller from Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center, have urged the European Commission to provide journalists with real-time data access. Allowing journalists and researchers to collect publicly available data through automated tools is a crucial form of transparency that does not rely on the platforms themselves. Such access is vital for understanding trends, differentiating anomalies from significant events, and uncovering the truth behind platform actions.

Protecting Public Interest and the First Draft of History

Tech platforms often justify their resistance to transparency by citing user privacy concerns. However, their business models already rely on exploiting user data for profit. Journalists do not seek private information but access to large quantities of public data to analyze trends and establish statistical significance. Without this access, anecdotes prevail, leaving the public with an incomplete narrative that favors the platforms rather than serving the public interest. It is crucial to unveil the veil of secrecy and demand transparency for a more informed society.


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