Senate investigating big technology and the role of algorithms in ‘manufacturing consent’.

It is interesting to see the new service that Apple roll out (link) and finding myself recall a year ago (or so) how Apple should add custom domain hosting, that there is an opportunity to focus on small to medium business etc. etc. only for it to all end up happening. Not that I’m saying that I have some insider knowledge but it’ll be interesting to see whether the custom domain hosting for iCloud+ is a precursor to rolling it out for education and Small/Medium businesses. Although there has been a upsurge in Mac sales with the gradual release of Apple Silicon based Macs (due to many holding back from upgrading for years) the long term positioning of Apple is around services – be it the cut they get through the store or simply selling something like iCloud+ which includes custom domain hosting, private relay, extra storage, unlimited disposable email addresses etc.

It appears that in the US there is a bipartisan senate proposal to deal with the algorithms that Facebook, Twitter, Google etc use to ‘increase engagement’ by amplifying content that is known to retain users using their service for longer (link). At the moment what is proposed is an ‘opt in’ system but what I hoping is that in the long run that it’ll become the default setting for not just new customers but for all existing customers to be switched over as well. I’ve also said in the past that Facebook should change the default settings it so that when adding a friend it shouldn’t mean that you’re automatically signed up for timeline – the virality effect only works because of the networking effect of everyone being lined up with everyone else so when one person likes something the impact is reverberated through friends and then when those friends react then the friends of friends then get to see the reaction that amplifying then combine that with algorithms that then amplify based on reaction that is how troll armies make use of the system to spread disinformation.

It is interesting that governments have started taking on the big tech companies – in part due to their realisation that they have the ability to large sways of people through algorithms that increase engagement which ultimately end up undermining the basis on which democracy functions which is an agreed on set of facts so then the debate is based on an greed set of facts but different solutions being proposed to address challenges that need addressing. I have a feeling that we’re going to start seeing a series of bills in the US and elsewhere with the focus on addressing individual issues rather than trying to push through a large omnibus piece of legislation. We’ve already seen countries as South Korea undermine the ‘in app’ payment monopoly that Apple has so expect that to to spread to include Google. I don’t see Apple losing the monopoly that the App Store has for distributing apps to iOS devices but I think it’ll attract a lot more scrutiny and regulation when compared to Android given that you can already side load apps onto Android. As noted in a prior post, there are robust arguments of why a monopoly may benefit a consumer but if you’re going to go down that route then it opens you up for greater regulation – the question is whether Apple see’s the additional regulation is worth the hassle or whether allowing side loading through some sort of two step ‘power user mode’ (to keep regular users safe while allowing side loading for power users) is worth doing if it means having more control over their App Store.

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