New Social Media Transparency Bill Would Force Facebook To Open Up To Researchers

A bipartisan group of US senators have announced a new bill that would require social media companies to share platform data with independent researchers. The Verge reports: The bill was announced Thursday by Democratic senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and also Rob Portman (R-OH), a Republican. Named the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act (PATA), it would establish new rules compelling social media platforms to share data with "qualified researchers," defined as university-affiliated researchers pursuing projects that have been approved by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Under the terms of the bill, platforms would be bound to comply with requests for data once research was approved by the NSF. Failing to provide data to a qualifying project would result in the platform losing the immunities provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. "The PATA act is a truly comprehensive platform transparency proposal," said Laura Edelson, a PhD candidate at NYU Tandon School of Engineering and lead researcher at NYU's Cybersecurity for Democracy project, in an email to The Verge. "If passed this legislation would provide a real pathway for researchers to better understand online harms and start coming up with solutions."

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