May 28, 2023 | The Hill

Engage or enrage: Sasha Havlicek on addressing bipartisan distrust in “curated speech environments”

ISD’s CEO, Sasha Havlicek, wrote an op-ed for The Hill about mutual distrust towards tech platforms across the political aisle and why social media transparency is needed to address it.   

“Trust in information and institutions has plummeted everywhere. While the public square has become increasingly polarized and shrill, those on the left and the right share one perspective: They both feel tech platforms are biased against, or worse, censor, their views. The reality is more complex, but we will never know whether their grievances are justified without a complete picture of social media moderation and curation systems.” 

In the article, she explains how ISD’s work analyzes and exposes bad actors’ weaponization of social media platforms. These bad actors include “hostile” states, such as China and Russia who wage information wars to sow discord across Western countries, as well as extremist groups who promote violence online.  

But the problem isn’t just that bad actors are using and abusing social media. It is that in their drive for profit, social media companies have ended up prioritizing engagement over safety. […] This is not a free speech environment, this is a curated speech environment, in which the major social media platforms determine who sees what. 

She further emphasizes that exposing the nature and scale of this activity is not censorship, but rather critical to “save lives, and protect our citizens and democratic processes from covert information operations.” 

To counter the lack of access to platform data, Sasha offers three solutions: strong federal privacy laws, consumer protection legislation “to ensure people can trust the products that social media provides,” and improved transparency requirements for social media platforms. 

To protect free speech online we need transparency around the invisible hands that guide our digital experiences. This should be a common cause for both left and right.” 

The full article is available on The Hill.