A project studying algorithmic amplification and distortion, and exploring ways to minimize harmful amplifying or distorting effects
Most online speech today is hosted on algorithmic platforms that are designed to optimize for engagement. But algorithms are not neutral. They amplify some speech and suppress others. Some effects are positive, such as the decreased power of gatekeepers in identifying new talent. Others exert a pervasive distorting effect on everything, whether the production and dissemination of science or the tourism industry.
Under the direction of the Knight Institute’s 2022-2023 Visiting Research Scientist Arvind Narayanan, the Institute will examine how algorithmic amplification and distortion shape specific domains, markets, or facets of society, and explore ways to modify algorithms or design in order to minimize harmful amplifying or distorting effects.
Through a series of blog posts, essays, and a major symposium—entitled “Optimizing for What? Algorithmic Amplification and Society,” to be held April 27-28, 2023, at Columbia University—this project seeks to identify gaps in existing understandings of algorithmic distortion, as well as uncover and explain the true principles that govern the movements of online speech.