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Government

Drupal Creator Floats an "FDA For Data and Algorithms" 71

jeffengel writes: When Facebook's news feed and Google's search bar have the power to influence voter decisions, is it time for government oversight? That's what Dries Buytaert, creator of Drupal and co-founder of Acquia, is proposing: an "FDA for data and algorithms." The move would aim to boost transparency, but it also raises tough questions. What exactly would such an agency be tasked with monitoring, and what would its penalties look like? Would it wield too much power, pushing the U.S. closer to China levels of information control? Buytaert is pitching the idea as part of a broader push for a more open Web that reduces the dominance of a handful of platforms.
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Drupal Creator Floats an "FDA For Data and Algorithms"

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  • Which government? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @12:41PM (#51637183)
    What country, or state, or city gets to decide truth? The entire proposition is absurd; people need to be educated to understand that all media outlets are biased rather than trying to have some government agency decide what bias is acceptable.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      >all media outlets are biased

      Well, that's clearly false. I turned on fox news today, and they were saying exactly what I was thinking, so they're obvious right, and not biased like those pinko networks.

    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      What country, or state, or city gets to decide truth? The entire proposition is absurd; people need to be educated to understand that all media outlets are biased rather than trying to have some government agency decide what bias is acceptable.

      By comparing it to the FDA, it is quite obvious he means the US Federal Government. Nothing stops other countries from setting up their own "FDA of Data and Algorithms" as well.

      I think people need to be educated to understand that citizens of each country have the right to decide how much power private companies are allowed to have over average citizens. Some countries may be pro-business, some may be pro-privacy, and in reality all will fall somewhere in the middle. Any multinational company will have to d

      • For the guy in the articles ideas he promotes..

        I say "Please, prepare him and the horse he rode in on, for a possibly painful procedure.

        Seriously...we do NOT need to go here with govt. oversight.

        • Dear industry: keep screwing it up, harming the public, and being a menace to business, and you will be regulated.

          Sincerely,

          The Government.

          • Dear industry: keep screwing it up, harming the public, and being a menace to business, and you will be regulated.

            What is the harm here? It isn't like anyone holds a gun to anyone's head to make them use or visit google or Facebook.

            Even if you use them, no mind meld tricks here making you read and believe everything you read while on there, eh?

            Or...are you saying people have gotten too stupid to think for themselves, and need Uncle Sam to do all their mental work for them?

            If so...we've all lost already.

            • Nobody put a gun to people's heads making them buy arsenic laced snake oil, either.

              And, yes, we've lost already - or haven't you dealt with the public at large lately?

          • by Kohath ( 38547 )

            Government: Wait? They're screwing up, harming the public and menacing business? That's our job!

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      Apparently it's the country, state, or city of Googleville-stan-illvania which gets to decide. Don't try to spin this as allowing the matter to "take its natural course" or that we have more freedom or some such BS by just avoiding all legislation on this. Somebody is making these decisions right now, as we speak. The question at hand is who that should be.

      I'm still trying to parse your second sentence. Are you trying to suggest that instead of doing anything about this we should just cross our fingers a
  • by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @12:48PM (#51637243) Journal

    We're looking for disinformation control.

    • That's called the First Amendment. The People have wisely decided long ago this is the proper way to deal with this, and not to authorize government to be the arbiter of truth and falsehood.

      • The problem with Freedom is that it is often messy. Freedom of speech means people can say just about anything they want, including spewing hate and falsehoods.

        Any proposal that would restrict Liberty on the basis that it is messy, is walking the line towards tyranny. All those "do it to protect the children" style arguments are exactly the same reasoning. The base assumption is that people cannot adequately protect themselves from the mess. Regardless of the merits, it is a bad idea, because there is no en

  • It wouldn't be the first time this has arisen in history. There are rules in place [wikipedia.org] already on how traditional TV/News outlets provide election candidate coverage.
    • by fche ( 36607 )

      That law is just waiting to be nuked by a proper first-amendment challenge.

      • It's just for broadcast anyway, which just hamstrings the major networks in an age of not just cable but of post-cable channel distribution. It survives under the fiction of limited radio bandwidth therefore government gets to regulate content in the Name of The People when The People obviously don't want government controlling speech, hence the First Amendment.

      • I wonder if they'll give "equal access" to the Libertarian candidate. Yeah, exactly what I thought.

    • There are rules in place [wikipedia.org] already on how traditional TV/News outlets provide election candidate coverage.

      Broadcast frequencies are (or were) a limited resource, so the government is (or was) somewhat justified in dictating how they can be used. Besides, the existing regulations are designed to provide equal access. They do not make the government into the arbiter of "truth". Candidates can still say whatever they want (proof: Donald Trump).

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @12:51PM (#51637267) Homepage Journal

    "Buytaert is pitching the idea as part of a broader push for a more open Web that reduces the dominance of a handful of platforms."

    So, to state this plainly, the plan is to get the government involved to make the marketplace more open to other competitors.

    Sure, that's gonna work out real well. Morons.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @01:00PM (#51637321)

      "Buytaert is pitching the idea as part of a broader push for a more open Web that reduces the dominance of a handful of platforms."

      Because the handful of dominant platforms would never, ever have any influence on policy. Why would government regulators listen to a small number of well-recognized experts when they could listen to hundreds of chattering upstarts?

      The idea that government regulators will protect us from "the dominant few" is very common and tragically naive. Why do people keep falling for this?

      • by ranton ( 36917 )

        The idea that government regulators will protect us from "the dominant few" is very common and tragically naive. Why do people keep falling for this?

        The idea that the free market will protect us from "the dominant few" is very common and tragically naïve. Why do people keep falling for this?

        • The root question is 'how do we make this fair?'

          We can't. A free market is the closest thing to fair, and a dominant unassailable player will both appear to be a monopoly (and that may be true) and discourage competition for several reasons. Natural monopolies may not be bad or undesirable.

          But life is not fair, and trying to make it so is the cause of much trouble.

          • by ranton ( 36917 )

            The root question is 'how do we make this fair?'

            That is not the root question, and any opinions made assuming it is the root question are bound to be faulty. The root question is "what is in the best interest of the citizens of the US". That is not an easily answerable question, but it has nothing to do with fairness.

            History has shown plenty of times that government action and oversight can improve not only the lives of citizens but a competitive free market economy as well. It also has examples of governments hurting both of these goals. Government is n

          • Trying to make things "fair" is impossible. The moment you "take" from someone, anyone, in order to level the playing field (when it is already level) is nothing short of tilting the field. The actions themselves are "unfair". I've even heard that it isn't "fair" that Curry (Golden State Warriors) can shoot 50%+ from beyond the 3point line, and something must be done, because it is ruining the game.Which is absurd on its face, and why it was entertained at all is very telling to how we've gone as a society.

    • So, to state this plainly, the plan is to get the government involved to make the marketplace more open to other competitors.
      Sure, that's gonna work out real well. Morons.

      Yeah, government can never make markets more competitive by restricting a overly powerful companies..

      Posted with IE 6 v4, the only browser on the Internet; Content compliant with MS-HTML

  • Product managers will love dealing with 7 year testing timelines.

    Testing aside, what a ridiculous way to kill innovation.

  • The original concept of the internet was something like "fault tolerance through decentralization". There would be no single thing for a war to take out that could destroy the whole network.

    In the years since, we have backed further and further away from that concept. The internet is now simply broken if you block all of Google's IP ranges. Too many sites depend on things they load from Google, and they just won't work. Most people's email would stop working. Without 2 or 3 sites like Facebook and Twit

  • Instead of an "FDA for Data and Algorithms", I would recommend a non-government testing agency instead. Many of these exist already (think UL, "consumer reports", or European "notified bodies"). This requires that the industry agree on certain testing standards, and post on their websites when the algorithms have been certified. This could bring a lot of benefits without the drawbacks of government control.
    • Good idea, but these do exist in many forms though they're not necessarily keeping up with industry needs. I know for 61508 SIL (Safety Integrity Levels) many companies, which I'm not going to mention here, offer these services. Of course, the problem is how do you know that an algorithm is good enough? For SIL, they basically say if it's complex at all, then don't do it. Of course, these are safety systems, so they need to guarantee safety. But at times it feels like they're saying if you don't want to ge
  • by Misagon ( 1135 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @01:00PM (#51637333)

    The "FDA for Data and Algorithms" sounds a lot like the Data Inspection Board [wikipedia.org] that we have in Sweden.

    Every organisation over here (corp or non-profit) that keeps a record of personal information needs to be approved and registered with the agency. The agency performs inspections to see that the organisations comply with current laws.

  • Rick Perry is thinking, "Oh crap, that's yet another agency I have to remember to kill at debates."

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @01:06PM (#51637379)

    how about securing Drupal's codebase before releasing it?

    my lawn: get off it!

    • how about securing Drupal's codebase before releasing it?

      Yeah, this was exactly my thought as well. Given the number of core Drupal bugs that've been rated "critical" this past 12-18 months... maybe this guy should spend less of his free time daydreaming about new agencies and instead start doing some code review.

  • Data and algorithms would be too expensive for Americans to afford. In any case, the data and algorithms available in Europe and Asia would be so much better than ours that there would be "Internet tourism" overseas to take advantage of them.

  • by peterofoz ( 1038508 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @01:26PM (#51637565) Homepage Journal
    Years ago, before Google and Facebook, before the internet, before email, before faxes, before television, before radio, there were newspaper empires that had total control over the news and strongly influenced voter decisions in politics. So what's different?
    • The difference is someone was allowed to innovate without stifling government control the likes of which he's proposing. That's the difference he wants to end.

  • by somenickname ( 1270442 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @02:19PM (#51638019)

    I like the idea. I propose we call it the Ministry of Truth.

  • The only "FDA" sort of thing we need is to prevent moronic ideas get publicity. You want to do something useful, how about slimming down your bloatware CMS first?
  • ...I'm not sure its creator would want to admit to it in public.

  • Ignoring whether or not we think a government could do manage and police the algorithms, any measuremtent system for measuring websites, or corporation long term profitability or even employee performance should be kept secret otherwise it will be gamed.
  • An FDA for data and algorithms would decree that non-backdoored encryption would be a dangerous drug and/or poison.

  • It's called the USPTO. That's working out really well, isn't it?

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