New German Minister to Challenge Google, Facebook’s Presentation of News

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Germany’s incoming minister with responsibility for digital policy says she will push social media giants to make users’ information feeds more diverse and timely to avoid creating “echo chambers” for the like-minded.

Companies such as Facebook have come under pressure from regulators around the world as evidence has emerged of how the recirculation of a particular selection of news and views on their platforms can narrow perceptions of the world and voter behaviour.

The minister, Dorothee Baer, said she would open talks with Facebook and Google on the way that posts on social media platforms were sequenced.

“At the moment, the algorithms sort according to relevance or popularity,” she told the newspaper Die Welt in an interview published on Saturday. “That pushes to the top old posts that often have little to do with the truth.

“I want to see real-time timelines again that confront people not with what they want to know, but what they need to know, what is happening at this moment.”

The shock victories of Donald Trump in the 2016 US elections and of the “leave” camp in Britain’s referendum on European Union membership have led to widespread concern that ‘social media bubbles’ make it impossible to discern what voters are reading and whether it is true or not.

In Germany, where the experience of living under two different totalitarian regimes in the 20th century has created enormous concern at the privacy implications of social media, platform usage is lower, but growing.