As lawmakers mull curbs on social media, Haugen weighing in

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US lawmakers are proposing to curb the social media giant by limiting its free-speech protection against legal liability

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WASHINGTON – US lawmakers are proposing to curb the social media giant by limiting its free-speech protections against legal liability.

Their efforts come after a former Facebook product manager submitted a case that the company’s systems fuel online hate and extremism and fail to protect young users from harmful content.

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That whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is expected to consider MPs’ proposals at a House hearing on Wednesday. Her previous revelations have sparked worldwide legislative and regulatory efforts aimed at cracking down on Big Tech, and she recently made several presentations to European lawmakers and officials who are creating rules for social media companies.

Haugen, a data scientist working in Facebook’s civil integrity unit, corroborated his claim with a vast trove of internal documents from the company, which he secretly copied and provided to federal securities regulators and Congress.

When she made her first public appearance before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee in a far-reaching condemnation of the social network giant, she had ideas on how Facebook’s platforms could be made safer and Congress gave prescriptions for actions. . She rejected the idea of ​​disbanding the tech giant, as many lawmakers are backing targeted legislative measures instead.

Most notably, they include new restrictions on long-standing legal protections for speech posted on social media platforms. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called for the removal of some of the protections offered by a provision in the 25-year-old law — commonly known as Section 230 — that protects Internet companies from liability for user-posted content. Is.

Facebook and other social media companies use computer algorithms to rank and recommend content. They control what appears on users’ news feeds. Haugen’s idea is to remove security in cases where key content driven by algorithms favors mass engagement by users over public safety.

That’s the idea behind the Justice Against Malicious Algorithm Act, which was introduced by senior House Democrats nearly a week after Hogan testified on a Senate panel in October. The bill would also hold social media companies liable for removing their protections under Section 230 that are deemed to cause harm to users. A platform will lose immunity in cases where it “intentionally or recklessly” promotes harmful content.

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is hearing the bill and other proposed legislation to curb abuse in social media platforms on Wednesday. Senior Democrats on the committee, including New Jersey President Representative Frank Pallon, brought forward the bill targeting algorithms.

“The committee sees mounting evidence that when faced with the choice between making more money or protecting public health and safety, the committee will continue to choose money,” Pallon said recently. “The lack of transparency within these companies has serious implications for all Americans. The time for self-regulation is over. Congress must now come together in a bipartisan manner to consider proposals that bring real accountability. “

Some experts who support stricter regulation of social media say the law could have unintended consequences. It doesn’t explain well enough which specific algorithmic behavior would lead to loss of liability protection, they suggest, making it difficult to see how it would work in practice and what it might actually do. But there is widespread disagreement.

Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms has declined to comment on specific legislative proposals. The company says it has long advocated for the updated rules.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has suggested changes that would only give internet platforms legal protection if they can prove that their systems for detecting illegal content are flawed. Although this requirement may be more difficult for smaller tech companies and startups, leading critics charge that it will ultimately favor Facebook.

Other social media companies have urged caution in any legislative changes to Section 230.

, . Follow Marcy Gordon on


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