Skip to main content

Neely Center Design Code Leads Way On Social Media Reform 

Neely Center Design Code Leads Way On Social Media Reform 

Developed in collaboration with an array of experts, newly released Neely Center Design Code for Social Media provides recommendations for improving the digital platforms impact on society.

Color photo of multiple social media app icons on a mobile phone

The Neely Center Design Code for Social Media is a set of specific recommendations to improve user experiences and decrease negative impact on society. [Photo: iStock]

Stay Informed + Stay Connected


Scrolling through your social media feeds is an inextricable part of our daily lives. We can’t live without it. For all of its positive attributes — communication, connection, news, and maybe even retail therapy — the social media ecosystem is easily manipulated by bad actors spreading disinformation, fear, and suspicion throughout the global populace.

“We don’t just have to be mad at tech companies,” cautions RAVI IYER, managing director, NEELY CENTER FOR ETHICAL LEADERSHIP AND DECISION MAKING. “There are concrete things we can do to make them better.”

This week, the center introduced its latest tool in efforts to make the social media landscape safer. The NEELY CENTER DESIGN CODE FOR SOCIAL MEDIA is a set of specific design solutions to accentuate the positive and decrease the negative impact of digital platforms on society.

“The users of these platforms are often are unhappy with the products, but they really don’t know what to be pushing for. They just know they want a better experience,” Iyer added.

Using evidence from internal company product work and external studies, Neely Center scholars worked with a diverse set of stakeholders, including technologists, academics, and civil society groups, to formulate the nine recommendations they hope social media platforms will adopt.

The design solutions largely encourage greater user control over content, better defaults to protect children, improved incentives for publishers, and preventing manipulation of the system through harmful content, among other recommendations.

“Through these recommendations, our hope is to advance the public conversation and helping users, leaders, and other decision makers to get more educated and more involved in pushing for changes at the tech companies that really improve the user experience,” Iyer explained.

With the ultimate goal of improving social media platforms, the design codes compliment the center’s earlier efforts launched this July. The NEELY SOCIAL MEDIA INDEX — the first public tracking survey of user experiences across popular tech platforms — regularly publishes new high-quality data; the index provides consumers, researchers, and policymakers real-time knowledge to make informed decisions on the affects of social media. This is one of three indices the center has developed, including the NEELY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) INDEX and the forthcoming Neely Mixed Reality Index.

Design is the primary tool to create the products we want to use.

— Ravi Iyer

Managing Director, Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision Making

“We’re facing as a society, and as leaders, one of the most difficult and important challenges of our time, which is how to align these powerful and emerging technologies with ethical and human-centered values,” adds NATHANAEL FAST, director of the Neely Center for Ethical Leadership and Decision Making. “Tools like the indices and design codes are ways to do that.”

In light of at least 54 elections taking place globally in 2024 as well as the ubiquity of powerful generative AI, the public use of the design codes comes at the perfect time to accelerate the Neely Center’s broader goals to help improve the social media experience by decreasing disinformation and increasing healthy engagement.