Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among the platforms that have come under fire for using algorithms to target and influence news stories, social media experts have warned.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has warned that social media companies are now becoming more influential in shaping the news, and it is now taking steps to improve their practices.
“As the technology of the 21st century continues to evolve, and platforms become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, social platforms have become more influential sources of information and commentary,” said the DHS’ “Safe Internet Safety” report, published on Thursday.
“While we cannot determine precisely how or why social media platforms have adopted their current algorithms, we do know that the rise of these platforms is resulting in greater influence on the content of our news and information.”
Facebook is considered one of the most influential social media users globally.
Its algorithms, which are designed to influence how people share and engage with their news feeds, influence news articles on its site and in other social networks.
The report said social media sites are now more likely to include news stories and information from a number of sources, such as social networks, websites and news organisations.
The researchers found that “a growing number of news sites have moved from being solely social to becoming a part of the news cycle”.
“In 2017, news sites in China and South Korea reported a decline in overall audience shares,” the report said.
“The news sites with the highest audience shares were the BBC, CNN, and the New York Times.
In the UK, the BBC and ITV all reported declines in their audience share.”
The DHS said it was working to “enhance our ability to monitor and control” these platforms, and to ensure they do not “take advantage of their role as the primary source of news”.
But the report also highlighted concerns about how the social networks are being used by criminals and terrorists, who are “susceptible to manipulative use”.
The report noted that some social networks have “systematic abuse and misinformation that can lead to users becoming infected”.
The DHS also said it is taking steps “to improve the security of our products, including by using additional controls to prevent malicious users from accessing our systems”.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn have all said they will introduce “stronger controls” in response to the report.