Designer or Journalist: Who Shapes the News You Read in Your Favorite Apps?

By: Mike Ananny and Kate Crawford | Nieman Journalism Lab

What are the ethics of platform design? One of the reasons that Facebook study on user emotions was so controversial is that it touched on the kinds of ethics we expect — or don’t expect — from platform designers. The public debate was divided, right down to the words used to describe what happened: science, experimentation, customization, manipulation, effect, significance, consent, harm, algorithm, users, audiences. All these words mean different things to people depending on their experiences, training, values, and expectations. And the simple summary of ethics as the “study of what we ought to do” is often unsatisfying because it invokes hard questions about who is the “we” who does the deciding, what “oughts” are up for debate, and who bears responsibility.

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