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Bipartisan bill calls for social media sites to add algorithm-free version

'Consumers should have the option to engage with internet platforms without being manipulated...'

 

Mikael Thalen

Tech

Published Nov 9, 2021   Updated Nov 10, 2021, 10:08 am CST

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House would force social media companies to offer users algorithm-free versions of their platforms.

The bill, as first reported on Tuesday by Axios, aims to give users the option to view content that has not been curated by the tech giants.

Known as the Filter Bubble Transparency Act, the bill, which is a companion to similar legislation introduced in the Senate, has been sponsored by Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), and Burgess Owens (R-Utah).

Social media services such as Facebook have long been criticized for using algorithms to entice users into spending more time online. Such algorithms have also helped amplify misinformation and other negative content.

The topic remains a popular one across the aisle, with Democrats arguing that algorithms are designed to make tech platforms addictive while Republicans claim that such technology is used to stifle certain speech.

In a statement to Axios, Buck defended what he believes are the rights of users to access content that has not been “manipulated.”

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

Cicilline also praised the legislation while accusing big tech of prioritizing growth over the public’s mental well-being.

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

Although the legislation has been introduced, it remains unclear if something like this could pass, let alone be implemented and enforced.

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*First Published: Nov 9, 2021, 11:29 am CST