Social media has changed the global information landscape while ushering in new concerns about misinformation, hate speech, phone addiction, and privacy violations.
Given all this and more, social media’s circuits need wiring, according to experts who spoke at the 2023 Social Media Summit@MIT, hosted by the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.
“Large platforms have gone private, policy changes are underway at Twitter [now called X] … and now generative AI and deep learning — in development for many decades — have burst onto the scene for public use,” said IDE director a professor of information technology and marketing at MIT Sloan. “These changes have an immense impact on text, images, video, and synthetic generation of information that influences how we think about our world.”
The problems with social media platforms are clear. In a series of presentations, experts pointed to three things that could address these concerns, as summarized in a new report from IDE.
1. Responsible AI
Platforms are racing to use prediction algorithms, advanced artificial intelligence, and generative AI tools such as ChatGPT. But there are widespread concerns about how these systems could perpetuate bias and other harms, and so far, oversight is lacking. While it will be hard to create AI without any bias at all, experts suggested several solutions that would support the responsible use of AI, starting with educating programmers and the public about the existence of AI bias. Other ideas include implementing government oversight over AI, using third-party monitors for websites, and penalizing offenders.
2. Misinformation interventions
Platforms are working on ways to identify or remove false information. Content moderation by humans can reduce misinformation, experts said, though it can be difficult to identify what content needs to be removed. Companies can also look at other steps, such as finding ways to disincentivize clickbait and adding friction or “nudges” to encourage people to share truthful content.
3. New platform ecosystems
Social media business models need an overhaul, according to several speakers. Things are already changing, as new platforms join the large social media platforms that have dominated the landscape for years. Decentralized platforms such as Mastodon and Bluesky, which use free, open-source software, could keep power and decision-making with users and lead to more innovative features, the experts said.