Social Media

New Social Media Transparency Bill Would Force Facebook to Open Up to Researchers

Senators from both parties have presented legislation in the United States that would require social media corporations to share platform data with independent researchers.

Democratic senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Republican Rob Portman (R-OH) announced the measure on Thursday. Accountability and Transparency Act (PATA) would establish new guidelines mandating social media companies to share data with “qualified researchers,” which are defined as university-affiliated researchers working on NSF-approved projects (NSF).

The law would make firms reveal internal data and help independent researchers whose projects have been approved by the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency.

Companies that fail to turn over requested data may be subject to FTC enforcement and may lose their immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This clause states that the platforms are not liable for content posted by users or other third parties.

The PATA law is the most recent in a long line of bills aimed at penetrating the dark world of social media algorithms. The Filter Bubble Transparency Act of 2019 took aim at algorithmic content distribution, ostensibly requiring consumers to be able to opt out of personalized news feeds and searches. Another bipartisan bill, the Platform Accountability, and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act suggested changes to Section 230 in 2020 as a way to hold platforms more responsible for content moderation choices.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri testified before a Senate Commerce subcommittee earlier this week, answering questions regarding the photo-sharing app’s impact on young people’s mental health. Senators from both parties expressed their displeasure with Instagram and its parent company, Meta, for what they perceived to be a lack of action on long-standing safety issues.

According to NPR, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told Mosseri, “Some of the big tech corporations have said ‘Trust us.” “That appears to be Instagram’s position in your testimony, but self-policing is based on trust. “The trust has vanished.”

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