6 Items

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Technology Primer: Social Media Recommendation Algorithms

| Aug. 25, 2022

The use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok is increasingly widespread, currently amounting to billions of users worldwide. Social media companies deploy proprietary recommendation algorithms to automate the selection, ranking, and presentation of content on the platform’s “feed” or recommended content section, every time a user opens or refreshes the site or app. However, social media recommendation algorithms have a range of privacy, security, information quality, and psychological concerns for users. 

A successful approach to the regulation of social media recommendation algorithms will require a combination of government regulation, self governance, and external oversight to facilitate value alignment across these diverse actors and tackle the various challenges associated with this technology. This publication explores the technical components of social media recommendation systems, as well as their public purpose considerations. 


Congress and Crises: Technology, Digital Information, and the Future of Governance

  • Leisel Bogan
| May 17, 2022

The 116th Congress began in 2019 with what would become the longest government shutdown in history, and it would end just three days shy of an unprecedented violent attack on the Capitol building during the first week of the 117th Congress. Throughout the last two Congresses, the United States government has grappled with several crises, many of which were exacerbated or complicated by information technologies. Congress responded to the challenges with a swath of technology oversight hearings, new legislation to regulate “Big Tech” and its negative impact on the public, and proposals for new technology offices and enhancements at Executive Branch agencies. Yet serious problems with disinformation and other public harms created by new technologies persist. 

The overview of this report highlights some of the crises and corresponding technology issues that Congress and the U.S. Government dealt with, and how it and other countries responded. Part I of this report specifically focuses on how Congress has responded to disinformation and the digital information crisis. Part II of this report notes that most Executive Branch agencies were created following a crisis or to better reflect the balance of power in the United States, and includes a recommendation for the creation of a Department of Technology and Innovation to better address the myriad of regulatory and public challenges presented by technology.


TAPP Fellowship 2021-2022 Report Round Up

  • Afsaneh Rigot
  • Aviv Ovadya
  • Francella Ochillo
  • Leisel Bogan
  • Livio Valenti
  • Stephen Larrick
| May 17, 2022

The  Technology and Public Purpose Fellows  hosted by the Belfer Center’s Technology and Public Purpose Project (TAPP) is a showcase of the TAPP fellowship cohort’s research projects. TAPP Fellows are government, industry, and civil society practitioners that conduct field-based research on issues relating to technology and public purpose over the course of one academic year.

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Blog Post - perspectives-on-public-purpose

Your Insides Are Online: Government Capacity and Technology

  • Leisel Bogan
| Apr. 05, 2022

On a fall afternoon in 2019 I stood at a desk in the U.S. Senate and watched on my computer screen, appalled as a researcher in Germany demonstrated how he could view medical images– XRays, MRI’s, mammograms– as they were uploaded onto the internet in real time. According to the researcher, Dirk Schrader, over 114 million images belonging to roughly 5 million Americans in 22 states were exposed on the internet.