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Bipartisan Bill Would Force Tech Companies To Provide Platform Without Manipulating News Feed

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Ailan Evans Tech Reporter
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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. (RELATED: Rep. Ken Buck Says Antitrust Bills Tackle Big Tech’s ‘Fundamental’ Problems)

“Consumers should have the option to engage with internet platforms without being manipulated by secret algorithms driven by user-specific data. I am proud to introduce this important bipartisan and bicameral legislation,” Buck said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 12:U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) holds up a copy of the House Intelligence Committee's report on the impeachment inquiry and a copy of the U.S. Constitution during a House Judiciary Committee markup hearing on the articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. The articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. House Democrats claim that Trump posed a 'clear and present danger' to national security and the 2020 election in his dealings with Ukraine over the past year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) holds up a copy of the House Intelligence Committee’s report on the impeachment inquiry and a copy of the U.S. Constitution during a House Judiciary Committee markup hearing on the articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Facebook and other dominant platforms manipulate their users through opaque algorithms that prioritize growth and profit over everything else,” Cicilline said in the statement. “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.”

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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