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Senators demand Facebook, Twitter, TikTok be more transparent with data

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants social media apps including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter to increase transparency by providing internal data to researchers.

Senators from both sides of the aisle introduced the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act on Wednesday which would require tech companies to submit data about ad libraries, content moderation and algorithms to an independent body.

The bill is aimed at addressing a “dangerous lack of transparency about how these platforms impact our children, families, society, or national security,” according to one of the co-sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

Social media companies would be required to provide the data to researchers who have been approved by the National Science Foundation, which is an independent agency.

If the bill becomes law, it would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Any company which fails to comply risks losing immunity from liability afforded to them by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Lawmakers want apps such as TikTok to provide internal data to independent researchers.
Lawmakers want apps such as TikTok to provide internal data to independent researchers.
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Section 230 protects apps from being sued for content posted by third-party members. In recent years, there have been calls from public officials to repeal the law in order to rein in tech firms who have been criticized for their content moderation policies.

The bill is being co-sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Talk of regulating big tech has gained momentum in recent years as critics have accused companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon of gaining unfair competitive advantages due to their dominant positions in the marketplace.

Tech companies, which have spent more than $100 million in lobbying efforts over the past two years, breathed a sigh of relief this week when the Senate declined to consider bipartisan antitrust legislation that posed a threat to their dominance.

Large tech firms such as Google and Apple intensely lobbied Capitol Hill to quash two bills that were approved by the House of Representatives aimed at curbing their monopolistic control over the digital marketplace.

There also appears to be a growing bipartisan appetite to either curb or ban TikTok, the popular Gen Z-dominated app, over concerns that its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, had access to Americans’ personal data that could pose a threat to national security.

Congress is expected to ban TikTok on government devices in the appropriations bill that must be voted on by Friday.

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