Bipartisan Bill Would Force Tech Companies to Stop Manipulating News Feeds

By Published on November 9, 2021

House lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would require social media companies to provide greater transparency to their users and to offer a version of their platforms without algorithms recommending personalized content.

The bill, known as the Filter Bubble Transparency Act, is co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Ken Buck and Burgess Owens and Democratic Reps. David Cicilline and Lori Trahan, and it is a companion to legislation first introduced by Republican South Dakota Sen. John Thune in 2019, Axios first reported. If enacted, the law would impose several restrictions on how social media companies amplify content on their platforms.

The bill includes a provision that would force companies to inform users if the platform employs “opaque algorithms,” or recommendation systems based on personalized data collected from users without their express consent.

Another provision would require companies to offer a version of their online platform free of personalized recommendation algorithms.

“Facebook and other dominant platforms manipulate their users through opaque algorithms that prioritize growth and profit over everything else,” Cicilline told Axios. “And due to these platforms’ monopoly power and dominance, users are stuck with few alternatives to this exploitative business model, whether it is in their social media feed, on paid advertisements, or in their search results.”

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Through restricting how companies amplify content on their platforms, the bill could raise First Amendment concerns.

“The bill inserts the federal government into the design and editorial judgments of FB [Facebook], Twitter, and YT [YouTube] — a pretty obviously unconstitutional violation of platforms’ First Amendment rights to rank content however they want,” tweeted Adam Kovacevich, founder and chief executive of tech advocacy organization Chamber of Progress.

Cicilline and Buck co-sponsored six antitrust bills advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee in June that seek to combat Big Tech’s alleged anti-competitive practices.

 

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