New Bipartisan Bill Would Require Tech Companies to Offer Algorithm-Free Versions

A bipartisan House bill would require tech companies to allow people to opt into algorithm-free versions of their platforms, Axios reports.

Social media companies have come under fire over their algorithms. Whistle-blowers, lawmakers, and experts have accused companies like Facebook and YouTube of amplifying controversial content, steering users toward increasingly extremist content, and even radicalizing viewers who go down the rabbit hole of the platform’s recommendation engine.

Some lawmakers have argued that the apps are intentionally designed to be addictive. Others have raised concerns that the algorithms may violate users privacy and boost extremism.

Conservatives have also claimed without evidence that the platforms deliberately censor conservative speech, though multiple reports have shown that Facebook and others have made carveouts for right-wing outlets like Breitbart that otherwise would have gotten them banned.

Filter Bubble Transparency Act:

The Filter Bubble Transparency Act would require platforms to offer versions that allow users to see linear updates rather than feeds determined by an algorithm.

The bill is sponsored by Democrats David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Lori Trahan of Massachusetts along with Republicans Ken Buck of Colorado and Burgess Owens of Utah.

Sen. John Thune, a member of Republican leadership, is also sponsoring a version of the bill in the Senate.

The bill would exempt smaller companies with fewer than 500 employees or those that have reported less than $50 million in gross revenue over the last three years.

The legislation also excludes companies that gather data on fewer than one million users each year.

Democrats previously introduced a bill that would strip companies of liability protections if they used an algorithm to deliver harmful content.

Bipartisan group accuses tech of manipulation:

"Consumers should have the option to engage with internet platforms without being manipulated by secret algorithms driven by user-specific data,” Buck told Axios.

"Facebook and other dominant platforms manipulate their users through opaque algorithms that prioritize growth and profit over everything else,” added Cicilline. “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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