A Better Approach to Privacy for Third-Party Social Media Tools

A robust ecosystem of third-party tools that complement social media platforms will require fresh thinking about privacy, say Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci and Ethan Zuckerman. Shutterstock Kylie Jenner complains about Instagram’s new algorithmically-driven, video-heavy feed, sharing a post that says, “stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends.”  Ted Cruz berates then Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for his control over the platform’s algorithms: “Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?” Scientists facing harassment on Twitter leave the platform. What do these three stories about social media have in common? They are all examples of complaints and problems with the digital public sphere that could be addressed with third-party social media tools. Central to the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure’s vision of a healthier digital public sphere are third-party tools which enable users to control their experiences on social media platforms. These third-party tools fill in the gaps between the experience a platform provides and what a user actually wants to experience. We think third-party tools are critical to moving past many of the hard problems and sticky debates of the digital public sphere. By moving some power from platforms into the hands of users and third-party tools they choose and trust—giving users more control over where and how they participate and what they see—we can satisfy conflicting visions for social media. It’s unrealistic to expect…A Better Approach to Privacy for Third-Party Social Media Tools