In a rarer show of bipartisanship, three different U.S. senators, including one Republican and two Democrats, recently announced a bill that will require social media platforms, such as Facebook, to provide researchers with access to its data.
Facebook recently underwent a name transformation, rebranding itself as Meta Platforms, Inc.
Senator Rob Portman, a Republican, joined with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons, both Democrats, to announce the bill. Per the provisions of the bill, Facebook and similar companies would be obligated to release internal data, as well as provide assistance to independent researchers whose projects have received appropriate vetting from the Nation Science Foundation, which is an independent federal agency.
Senators Chris Coons and Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats, announced the bill along with Rob Portman, a Republican. It would require the companies to release internal data and assist independent researchers whose projects have been vetted by the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency.
In a joint statement, the lawmakers declared that researchers would have the ability “to examine the data and release findings on the platforms’ impact to the public.”
Over the course of the data collection process, user privacy would be carefully protected.
If companies refuse to turn over desired data to researchers, they could face serious enforcement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as well as lose their immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Per Section 230, platforms are presently not held liable for content posted by third parties or platform users.
At this point in time, no House of Representatives companion to the bill currently exists.
Instagram, which is the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, has been particularly scrutinized for his adverse impact on the mental well-being and safety of younger users. In response to these concerns, Instagram abandoned plans for a children’s version of the app, and it also reportedly enhanced various rules designed to protect users in the past week.
According to Portman, “increasing transparency around Big Tech [company] practices will give policymakers the high-quality, well-vetted information [needed] to do our job most effectively.”
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