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Senators propose to force social media platforms to reveal inside data

A bipartisan Senate proposal presented on Thursday would require social media platforms to give researchers access to inside data in a bid to give the public a behind-the-curtain glimpse into how top tech platforms do business.

The Platform Accountability and Transparency Act would create an office within the Federal Trade Commission that would have the power to require disclosure of certain information to researchers and the general public, senators said.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican involved in the effort, said that before Congress takes action against social media platforms, lawmakers must see the data “to make sure we don’t let’s not legislate in the dark ”.

“I have a number of concerns about Big Tech – from facilitating sex trafficking to burying content about the origins of COVID-19 – and I want to make sure that any response from Congress is effective in addressing these concerns, “he said in a statement.

The precise data that lawmakers want to see transmitted by tech companies is not entirely clear. The draft proposal says the National Science Foundation will play a role in choosing which researchers and information technology companies are forced to give in. The bill requires that the data requested be “feasible for the platform to be provided”, that it be proportional to the needs of qualified researchers and that it does not represent an “excessive burden” for a given platform.

The authors of the bill said the information companies provide could provide things like a comprehensive ad library with information about engagement and who the ads are targeting.

Researchers receiving the data will be “affiliated with a university” and work on a proposal that will receive NSF approval. The FTC would set cybersecurity and privacy standards for researchers to follow.

“This legislation will increase transparency, which will help us hold these companies accountable and understand what information they have about users and what they are doing with it,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and one of the authors of the bill, in a press release. “Now is the time to act – we cannot sit idly by as social media platforms continue to put profits ahead of safety. Americans deserve to have the facts.

The Senate has started to focus on the algorithms of technology platforms – the formulas that determine what content is served to people using their products.

Ms Klobuchar participated in a Senate Trade Committee hearing on Thursday on “dangerous algorithms,” which focused primarily on how people’s digital experiences are shaped by businesses.

“Algorithms affect every aspect of our lives and it’s usually not very pretty and what we do know is that Americans are becoming more and more addicted to platforms, especially young people,” Ms. Klobuchar said. . “It takes up a lot of their day and in part because of the way they’re targeted. “

While the With the Senate obsessed with business algorithms, a House panel considered a wide range of proposals, including some regarding how businesses present options to users through their algorithms.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican from Washington, said the committee’s goal was incomplete.

“Despite our interest in continuing our work since the last Congress on a bipartisan privacy framework, we have yet to have a hearing, let alone any markup,” said Rodgers. “And Americans are desperate for a privacy and data security bill.”

It remains to be seen whether any of the competing proposals involving algorithms from tech companies and various related disclosure requirements gain momentum in both houses of Congress.

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