New Bill Targets 'Hot Button' Pushing by Social Media

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A new bill from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), the Don't Push My Buttons Act, would remove Sec. 230 liability for social media sites that uses an algorithm--technically any "automated function"--to deliver content based on information collected on a user's "habits, preferences of beliefs."

It would not apply if the user sought that targeted content or specifically authorized it. But otherwise a website would lose its immunity from civil liability for its moderation of that content.

The burden of proof is on the provider of the interactive computer service to demonstrate, "by clear and convincing evidence," that the user elected to receive that targeted content.

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The "button pushing" in the title refers to what Kennedy says is social media platforms' use of data collection to identify and "push" a user's hot buttons--the "divisive issues that create strong emotional responses or reactions"--by using algorithms to deliver content designed to play to those responses and "agitate them."

"Social media giants are using people’s data to manipulate them into spending more time on their sites, but the price is a more polarized America," said Kennedy. "It’s time to stop rewarding platforms that use their algorithms to target users with content that plays on individuals’ emotions without their consent. If these companies wield user data to foment division, they should not continue to enjoy such unfettered liability protections," said Kennedy.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.