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Meta Enhances Transparency and User Control in Content Recommendations Across Instagram and Facebook

Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, is taking steps to improve transparency and user control over its recommendation engine. In a recent blog post, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of Global Affairs, expressed the company’s commitment to being more transparent about its AI systems and providing users with greater control over the content they see.

As part of this effort, Meta is introducing a new feature called “Why am I seeing this?” for Instagram and Facebook Reels, as well as Instagram’s Explore page. This option allows users to understand why a particular post is being shown to them, empowering them with insights into the content displayed on their feeds.

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To further enhance user control, Meta is testing a system for Instagram that marks posts with “Interested,” enabling users to see more similar content. Additionally, the company is working on making Facebook’s “Show more, Show less” controls more prominent. While the exact location of these controls is not specified, Meta aims to make them easily accessible to users.

Meta has also released 22 “System Cards” that provide detailed explanations of various AI systems, including Facebook Feed recommendations, Facebook Group timelines, suggested people and groups, Instagram Reels recommendations, notifications system, and Stories AI. Although these cards offer valuable information, they may require some time for an average user to read and comprehend.

Clegg emphasized that Meta is also disclosing certain signals, such as liking or sharing a post, that influence user recommendations. However, the company has chosen not to reveal signals that could potentially be exploited to bypass their safeguards.

In parallel, Meta’s AI blog has discussed the possibility of developing AI models with tens of trillions of parameters, surpassing the current models like ChatGPT and GPT-4. Such colossal models can provide significant insights into user behavior, raising concerns about privacy and content recommendations.

To encourage further research, Meta is inviting academics and researchers to study its algorithms through a new Content Library and API. This initiative grants access to public posts, pages, groups, and events from Facebook, as well as public posts and data from creators and business accounts on Instagram.

Meta’s push for transparency and user control comes in response to increased scrutiny over the company’s content recommendation practices. Previous revelations by a Facebook whistleblower and a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department have highlighted the potential negative impact of algorithms on public content and user experiences.

While Meta aims to fill 30% of users feeds with algorithmic recommendations, the company’s recent release of documents and controls signifies an effort to address regulatory concerns and privacy advocates’ demands. Moreover, the rise of decentralized platforms like Bluesky and Mastodon has sparked conversations about granting users more control over the algorithms that shape their social media feeds. Centrally-operated platforms such as Instagram and Facebook could draw inspiration from these alternative networks to provide better algorithmic choices and control to their users.