Meta (META) is working on its transparency efforts, and it’s leaning on Nick Clegg to deliver the message. Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, published a blog post today (June 29) detailing how Facebook (META) and Instagram recommend content using artificial intelligence. He also announced two new products that help users control the content they see and understand why the apps recommend specific posts. Meta published two additional blog posts building on Clegg’s statement today.
“We believe that as (AI) technologies are developed, companies should be more open about how their systems work and collaborate openly across industry, government and civil society to help ensure they are developed responsibly,” Clegg said in the post.
The details of how Meta’s algorithm works aren’t new or surprising. The company recommends content based on how users have engaged with similar posts in the past. But the series of blog posts does shed light on Meta’s strategy to position itself as trustworthy to consumers and a resource to AI researchers, despite past issues with transparency.
“We also believe an open approach to research and innovation…is better than leaving the know-how in the hands of a small number of big tech companies,” Clegg wrote. Earlier this year, Meta decided to open-source its chatbot technology, meaning the original code for the software is freely available. Competitors Google and OpenAI have kept their code largely secret and criticized Meta’s approach, but Meta’s strategy could allow it to better compete with the AI leaders. Meta has released more than 1,000 AI models, libraries and data sets for researchers to access in the last decade, according to Clegg.
The post signals Clegg’s increasing influence within Meta. He has become somewhat of a right-hand man to CEO Mark Zuckerberg in recent years, following the departures of other high-ranking executives. Earlier this year, he published a 4,500-word blog post about how metaverse technologies can aid in educating students. His post reiterated Zuckerberg’s message about the metaverse his company is building in the shadow of widespread criticism. Clegg wrote an even longer post about Facebook’s algorithm in 2021, defending the company’s practices but saying it should also “be frank about how the relationship between you and their major algorithms really works.”
As Meta’s global policy head, Clegg is responsible for advocating for Meta’s products in the public sphere, Zuckerberg said in a statement last year. Since joining Meta in 2018, Clegg has fought criticisms about the company’s impacts on elections, genocide and spreading hate speech. In 2021, The Guardian called Clegg the “fall guy for Facebook’s failures.” He previously worked in the U.K. parliament for 12 years, as the leader of the Liberal Democrat party and deputy prime minister.
What are Meta’s new transparency products?
In the coming weeks, Meta is expanding its “Why Am I Seeing This” feature, which tells users why the algorithm recommended a certain post on their feed. The option is already available on some content in the feed and on all advertisements, but Meta is adding it to the Instagram Explore page and its Reels product on both Instagram and Facebook. By clicking the post, users can see detailed information about what previous activity informed the machine learning models to show a specific piece of content. For example, it might say the AI systems recommended content based on a post the user liked, another they commented on, and an account they follow.
Instagram is also testing the ability for users to indicate they want to see more of a certain type of Reel recommended to them. Meta has offered a “Not Interested” button since 2021, but an accompanying “Interested” button could become available. The algorithm can then recommend content more closely tailored to what the user wants to see. Facebook already has “Show More” and “Show Less” features that function similarly, and the company is working on making those options more prominent, according to Clegg.