November 18, 2021 - 8:15am PST

EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow appears on "Alternative recommender systems in the DSA: How to protect free expression, create competition and empower users all at once," a webinar co-sponsored by Article 19, Access Now, European Partnership for Democracy and Panoptykon Foundation. 

Facebook Files provided yet another confirmation that the company's extremely profitable recommender systems come at a high price paid by vulnerable individuals and our societies. Algorithms optimised for engagement amplify toxic content, such as hate speech or disinformation, and target humans based on their vulnerabilities.

The way out from this vicious circle, generating high profits at the expense of human welfare, leads through radical structural change: unbundling content hosting and content curation on large platforms, so that other providers can offer alternative recommender systems, and users have a real choice on which one to pick.

Currently, major social media platforms offer hosting and content curation as a bundle, and users have no choice but to take it all. In order to enable the development of alternative recommender systems - including algorithms that cater to users’ needs, instead of exploiting their vulnerabilities and maximising engagement at all costs - we need to separate hosting from content curation. For this diversified environment to flourish, third party recommender systems must be able to operate on social media platforms, meaning they need to be interoperable with them, and users have to be free to select the recommender system that better fits their needs. In this scenario, very large platforms like Facebook will no longer have immense power over our information diet, shifting control back to the people.

This webinar will offer a deep dive into the topic. The panelists will explain what legal and technological changes are necessary to achieve a landscape of alternative recommender systems within large platforms. Experts in EU policy, software engineering, security and the protection of fundamental rights will answer questions related to practical functioning of such interoperable, open environments.

Register here (free!).