Russia could by a draft law regulate and restrict algorithms that recommend content on social media platforms, which increase the risks of conflicts, according to Moscow-based media outlet Kommersant. 

As sources within the State Duma (the lower house of Russia’s Federal Assembly) told the Russian media outlet on Friday, Oct. 15, the upcoming bill will be introduced in the Russian parliament later this year.

Through it, platforms will be obliged to provide users with the ability to disable algorithms that recommend content and accounts that, according to Moscow officials, promote social discord or violate local laws.

The media outlet said that the project had been drafted by the Information Policy Committee, headed by Alexander Khinshtein. 

Committee deputy member Anton Gorelkin told Kommersant that the document was soon to be finalized. “It involves the regulation of recommendation services of social networks,” so he added that “their transparency is important.”

Gorelkin further noted on his Telegram channel that “recommendation algorithms are set up so that there are always fakes, provocations and bullying all over the user’s feed,” referring to allegations by former Facebook manager Frances Haugen, who accused the company of “harming children, causing division in society and weakening our democracy.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the allegations against Francis Haugen on Oct. 6 on his social media page, saying, “At the heart of these allegations is the idea that we prioritize profits over safety and well-being. It’s simply not true.”

In turn, according to what RT noted, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev referred to the interference of algorithms used by social networks in the interests of other nations when he stated:

“When I check Twitter recommendations on who to follow—of course, the first person who comes up is Navalny, who is serving a criminal sentence. Isn’t this interference in the affairs of a foreign country? It’s blatant interference.”

Meanwhile, Institute for Internet Research strategic projects director Irina Levova warns that algorithms should be legally monitored based on how the suggested content affects users. 

“If the system is capable of having a significant impact on the rights, freedoms and well-being of people and poses risks to life, health and property, additional requirements should be established for it.” 

But as Levova points out, in practice, the requirements for systems based on algorithm-based decision-making depend on the potential risks.

And some companies fear that if algorithms are restricted, the reach of their products to customers may be affected. 

Mikhail Ilyichev, CEO of audio service Sber.Zvuk, told Russian media outlet Kommersant that companies could see a drop in profits. Disabling the recommendation mechanism will mean that users will see fewer targeted ads based on cookies and browser history. 

This is not the first time Russia has launched a criticism of the Tech Giants.

Following the outage of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, last week, the country’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the outage highlights the failings of the conglomerate company and the need to build Russia’s own sovereign Internet capabilities.

“We are not isolating ourselves, but their technologies are failing to such a degree that three and a half billion people were cut off,” Maria Zakharova said.

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