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Parmy Olson

Social Media Can No Longer Hide Its Problems in a Black Box

Tales of AI’s inscrutability have been exaggerated. Big Tech should prepare for regulators to peer deep inside their platforms in the near future.   

Get ready for a closer look.

Get ready for a closer look.

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe

There’s a perfectly good reason to break open the secrets of social-media giants. Over the past decade, governments have watched helplessly as their democratic processes were disrupted by misinformation and hate speech on sites like Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook, Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube and Twitter Inc. Now some governments are gearing up for a comeuppance.

In the next two years, Europe and the UK are preparing laws that will rein in the troublesome content that social-media firms have allowed to go viral. There has been much skepticism over their ability to look under the hood of companies like Facebook. Regulators, after all, lack the technical expertise, manpower and salaries that Big Tech boasts. And there’s another technical snag: The artificial-intelligence systems tech firms use are notoriously difficult to decipher.