Bipartisan legislation addresses tech companies’ chosen algorithms

A group of House MPs wants to force to offer users options for – formulas that determine what information reaches users and in what order data arrives, such as: Google search results are presented.

introduced Tuesday will allow tech companies to offer alternative algorithms or ranking systems that the government considers transparent, but companies can offer algorithms that are not government-approved. It will be up to users to decide which one to distribute.

Facebook and similar technology platforms GoogleUse algorithms to determine things like what search results appear in response to a query.

Colorado Republican and one of the law’s authors, Rep. “Consumers should have the option to interact with internet platforms without being manipulated by secret algorithms driven by user-specific data,” said Ken Buck.

He introduced the legislation along with Representatives David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, Burgess Owens, Utah Republican, and Lori Trahan, Massachusetts Democrat.

According to the bill shared with The Washington Times, the Filter Bubble Transparency Act will create a requirement that forces companies to display “unmanipulated content” that is not determined by data collected from users.

The Federal Trade Commission will be responsible for enforcing the law and imposing fines on those who do not comply.

The algorithms rely on many factors, such as chronology or user behavior, and critics have attacked tech companies’ ranking formulas for spreading misinformation and censoring speakers the companies dislike.

Some leading social media platforms already offer different options for people who don’t want tech companies to direct content to people based on inferences about people’s behavior. Twitter, for example, gives its users the option to sort information by chronology, “recent Tweets,” or an algorithm that makes suggestions, “Home Tweets.”

The new bipartisan proposal focuses on a company’s “opaque algorithm”; The proposal says it means a ranking system for information that uses data from people when those people don’t explicitly provide data for the ranking system.

One year after the proposal became law, platforms using its algorithms must disclose that they are operating an opaque algorithm and include a version of the platform that uses a “login transparent algorithm”, meaning a ranking system that does not rely on user data. .

The bill’s intended targets are large tech companies that collect data from more than 1 million users and have annual gross revenues of $50 million or more, Mr. Buck’s office says. The legislation also exempts companies that have fewer than 500 employees or meet certain criteria, such as nonprofit researchers.

“Facebook and other dominant platforms manipulate their users through opaque algorithms that put growth and profit above all else,” Mr Cicilline said in a statement. “And because of the monopoly power and dominance of these platforms, users are stuck with few alternatives to this exploitative business model in their social media feeds, paid ads or search results.”

Major and leading tech platforms will oppose legislation as their algorithms are a crucial part of what sets them apart from their competitors. Adam Kovacevich, CEO of the Progress Chamber, which has partnered with big tech companies like the liberal advocacy group Amazon and GoogleHe said the law was unconstitutional.

“The bill has the federal government on FB, Twitter and [YouTube] — a fairly blatant unconstitutional violation of platforms’ First Amendment rights to rank content as they please,” Mr. Kovacevich wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Kovacevich said that the requirement of legislation to prevent people from viewing unmanipulated content could prevent it. Google from filtering out things like fraud and pornography in search results.

Although the House bill has faced numerous obstacles, it has important allies in the Senate. In 2019, South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune, Tennessee Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat; Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican; and Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat.

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