Chapter 14: The accountability of algorithms on social media platforms
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Technology giants depend on users remaining glued to their devices. What makes social media advertising so valuable - and therefore lucrative - is the way that these platforms strategically and accurately target consumers based on data analysis about individuals as well as cohorts of users. Social media companies design algorithms that keep users engaged with their platform. News services achieve this by producing a coloured banner on our screen that reads "Breaking news". By way of contrast, the news feed on social media platforms includes advertisements that may look like news content, but may in fact be selling a product or service. Advertisers post images of things that we searched for only hours earlier. However, data sets do not necessarily yield objective and reliable information. Indeed, there is evidence that algorithms embedded in social technologies can encode societal biases, accelerate the spread of rumours and disinformation, and amplify echo chambers of public opinion. Left unchecked, algorithms may be used for misleading or deceptive purposes. Such uses include the creation of data sets and inferences gleaned from their analysis for sale to third parties to support their decision-making. This chapter examines the nature of algorithms and how they can be used on social media platforms to gather and analyse personal data that may inform or manipulate sentiment and decision-making.

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