US Congress Introduces New Algorithm Bill to Fight Spread of Harmful Content & Misinformation

hoaict - Aug 24, 2022

US Congress Introduces New Algorithm Bill to Fight Spread of Harmful Content & Misinformation

Right now, most of us use the internet in practically every aspect of life, from working online in our 9 to 5 jobs to playing games on leading platforms like GGBet casino online. Heck, with the convenience of online shopping, we hardly ever go to the grocery store or mall in person as the items can be delivered right to our doorstep.

The reliance on the internet has also spread to our source of the latest news. Today, many of us no longer watch the news on Tv stations or buy newspapers as previous generations did. Instead, most people just jump into platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to get the latest updates on trending topics. These days, social media platforms are no longer about just communication between friends. However, in a world where we rely on the internet this much, especially social media, it is easy to bump into misinformation and harmful content. For example, the most recent misinformation war has been on the Coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, 9th, February, a bipartisan bill looking to implement changes to social media platforms was tabled to Congress by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Cynthia Lummis. The main aim of the introduction of this bill is to try and regulate algorithms that push harmful content to users.

A Call for Change in the US Congress

If passed, the Nudging Users to Drive Good Experiences on Social Media Act (or the Social Media NUDGE Act) will give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the mandate to develop regulations that hold social media tech companies accountable for unfair practices.

The bill has already passed its second reading, the 2nd session of the 117th Congress. It proposes a team-up of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) under the supervision of the FTC to find “content-agnostic platform interventions.” These interventions will be implemented to curb the harm brought by algorithmic amplification and social media addiction. Implementation will be accompanied by conducting a progressive study, due for updates twice a year, and will involve the public and stakeholders.

Klobuchar’s War on Social Media Giants

Klobuchar is the Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. He has previously recommended similar bills, one being the Health Misinformation Act of 2021. Sen. Ben Luján coauthored the act as a response to a report on the “Disinformation Dozen” by the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The report had brought forth findings that a group of 12 individuals was responsible for the spread of 65% of anti-vax content on Facebook and Twitter. With Klobuchar’s efforts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were confronted, and action was taken against the individuals.

Another act that is related to promoting healthy use of social media platforms by users is the COVID-19 Misinformation & Disinformation Task Force Act introduced by Sens. Peters (Michigan), Reed (Rhode Island), and Klobuchar (Minnesota). This act proposed inter-agency synergies to create a public sensitization campaign on the dangers of misinformation and disinformation.

Still, in 2021, Klobuchar partnered with 4 other senators to table the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act. This law would restore competition to American markets and prevent monopoly by big companies that are always buying out the competition, leaving no room for change to bad practices.

Support From All Fronts

Sen. Lummis, the coauthor of the NUDGE Act, commented that the bill marks a great milestone in addressing Big Tech overreach. She added that by commissioning the study of social media addiction by NSF and NASEM, the impact on society could be fully assessed. The study will eventually inform future decisions to place guardrails to protect children in her state (Wyoming) from the negative effects of social media.

The NUDGE Act has received considerable support from experts in the cybersecurity space – for instance, the Lead Researcher at NYU Cybersecurity for Democracy and NYU Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science Laura Edelson agreed with the new bill. She said that the research-driven approach proposed by the act is a positive move towards creating safer online spaces for vulnerable users, including kids and teens.

Putting Users Ahead of Profits

One thing to note is that while previous bills have always proposed some kind of amendment to Section 230, the NUDGE Act does not. Section 230 is the law that shields social media companies from being liable to the content shared via their platforms.

The one thing that the past year has proven is that both Democrat and Republican lawmakers are now on the same page regarding misinformation as bipartisan bills are being introduced from all quarters. Previously, it seemed more of a Democratic issue. However, after a Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, disclosed some documents exposing the company’s knowledge of their platforms’ impact on users, especially teens.

Haugen has since met with lawmakers from different governments, including legislators from the US, UK and French governments. This not only sparked a backlash from the general public regarding the issue of putting profits ahead of people but also caused lawmakers to put aside their differences and prioritize the interest of the people.



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