In advance of a high-profile House hearing March 25 with Big Tech CEOs about their accountability for disinformation on their platforms, a pair of House Democrats are taking advantage of that spotlight to reintroduce a bill to combat algorithmic promotion of extremism.
Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Tom Malinowski (N.J.) are reintroducing the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act, joined by at least a dozen Democratic co-sponsors. The bill had been introduced in the previous Congress
They are suggesting the attack on the Capitol provides new evidence such a bill is needed.
“When social media companies amplify extreme and misleading content on their platforms, the consequences can be deadly, as we saw on January 6th," said Eshoo. "It’s time for Congress to step in and hold these platforms accountable."
The bill narrows edge providers' Sec. 230 immunity from civil liability for most third-party content on their sites by removing that shield if a platform's algorithm "is used to amplify or recommend content directly relevant to a case involving interference with civil rights; neglect to prevent interference with civil rights; and in cases involving acts of international terrorism."
The bill's reintroduction came as computer companies, in advance of the same hearing, were warning Congress of the implications of narrowing or eliminating Sec. 230 liability protections.
“Social media companies have been playing whack-a-mole trying to take down QAnon conspiracies and other extremist content, but they aren't changing the design of a social network that is built to amplify extremism," said Rep. Malinowski.
A former Facebook exec told House members at a hearing last September that the site, at least in the past, was designed to promote content that drives engagement, even if it was misinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news.
“The Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act is an important step forward in addressing the dangers of the AI-driven business models that have been built on the special liability protections of Section 230," said David Chavern, CEO of the News Media Alliance. "We need to focus on the choices made by the platforms in deciding which content they promote and the responsibilities that should be tied to those choices."
The alliance is currently trying to get Congress to give news content creators more power over the aggregation of their content on those Big Tech platforms.
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