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Why Publishers Need to Care About Algorithm Transparency

People want algorithms. But how to integrate the power of algorithms without eroding trust? And why is it important not to be too transparent?
Why Publishers Need to Care About Algorithm Transparency

(Don't forget to check the three recommended reads at the bottom.)

ALGORITHMS AND THE MEDIA. 75 percent of Danish Facebook users believe that algorithms can play a part in presentation of the news and content recommendation.

That is one of the conclusions in a new report (in Danish) from the Media Research and Innovation Centre at the Southern University of Denmark. The report is a part of the 'Algoritmic Gatekeeping' research project.

(You can also read about the report at journalisten.dk)

Professor Arjen van Dalen surveyed about 2000 Facebook users in Denmark aged 18 to 65 years. Especially the younger generations who have grown up with Social Media (born in 1997 or later) are positive towards algorithms. Here the number is 95 percent.

The report also concludes, however, that algorithms should not be left on their own. Human editors and journalists need to work with the algorithms and automation systems.

This is completely in line with the earlier literature on the subject: The replace vs. augment/enhance discussion has ended. Algorithms are here to make humans better at their job – not to take their jobs from them.

"A majority prefers that algorithms and journalists work together on the selection of news," the report says.

"While the algorithms are viewed as being better than journalists at picking information with personal relevance for the user, journalists are preferred over algorithms when it comes to securing objectivity, diversity and content that surprises."

The classic journalistic values still have a part to play, rest assured.

The respondents generally have a low confidence in news solely selected and written by algorithms - but in the report this seems to relate to the Facebook algorithm especially.

There is also a low confidence in content produced by algorithms:

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