Outside the Black Box: From Algorithmic Transparency to Platform Observability in the Digital Services Act

2024-05-15 00:00:00
Leerssen, Paddy
ISSN der Zeitschrift
Weizenbaum Institute

Algorithmic transparency is high on the agenda for social media regulation. However, recent work in Science and Technology Studies questions whether this endeavor of “opening the black box” is feasible or even meaningful due to the sociotechnical contingency of platform behavior. To address these shortcomings, Bernhard Rieder and Jeannette Hofmann have proposed a move from algorithmic transparency to platform observability: a pragmatic and sociotechnical perspective aimed at securing structural, real-time access to the means of platform knowledge production. This paper applies the concept of observability to recent legislative developments in the EU’s new Digital Services Act. Reviewing that legislation’s transparency rules demonstrates how familiar algorithmic principles rules are starting to be complemented by innovative new observability policies and how these reflect revised understandings of transparency’s possible subjects, functions, and formats. This review also surfaces normative tensions in observability policy. In terms of substance, observability demands access to content but struggles to discern public from private discourses in semi-public social media channels. In terms of function, observability aims to act as a companion to regulation, but tensions arise between a broad concept of knowledge production and a narrow concept of regulatory compliance monitoring. In terms of format, observability’s drive for infrastructural and real-time access entails new API governance tradeoffs between, for example, scope and scalability. Along these lines, observability paves the way for a more constructive debate around platform data access laws and the dead ends of algorithmic transparency.

Transparency \ Social Media \ algorithmic regulation \ Observability \ Digital Services Act \ platform governance
Verwandte Ressource
Verwandte Ressource
Leerssen, P. (2024). Outside the Black Box: From Algorithmic Transparency to Platform Observability in the Digital Services Act. Weizenbaum Journal of the Digital Society, 4(2). https://doi.org/10.34669/wi.wjds/4.2.3