USA: Whistleblower underscores demand for regulation of Facebook & Co.

The US parliament wants to adapt the liability regulation – Section 230 – for Internet companies. To this end, the congress once again heard the whistleblower Frances Haugen. Haugen called for more transparency, for example that tech companies transmit data from their social platforms to researchers. This should also be anchored in law. Another subject of investigation connected with the stricter regulation of large social media platforms were the Facebook algorithms that were harmful in Haugen’s opinion.

Holding Big Tech Accountable: Targeted Reforms to Tech’s Legal Immunity

According to Haugen, the social media giant knows what is happening within the platforms. The algorithms used by Facebook are designed for profit. The Democrat Malinowski emphasized to The Vergethat the knowledge is growing that algorithms are the problem. They would drive people to political extremes and even violence. At the hearing on the liability of large tech companies, Haugen saidthat Facebook is also able to play “neutral content such as healthy food”. Instead of doing this, content that has the greatest reach, and some radical content, is deliberately played out. On the other hand, Facebook did nothing in the past.

For changes, the much discussed paragraph “Section 230” of the 1996 Communications Decency Act must be changed. This is also known as the legal protective shield for online platforms and states that providers must not be treated as the originator of information that does not originate from themselves. Online platforms should no longer be protected by this section. It has to be adapted, says Haugen.

However, due to the disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over the judicial interpretation of the paragraph, reforms have not been implemented, explains The Verge. Now the Democrats are more optimistic that they can act together against harmful content. Public pressure also plays a role, according to the chairman of the committee of inquiry.

However, civil rights activists warn that planned changes to Section 230 are rash and could do more harm than good. In 2017, for example, an amendment to Section 230 ensured that the exemption from liability for promoting prostitution was also abolished. Sex workers have been driven off by websites such as Backpage.com, where they can check their customers.

Haugen had already testified about Facebook in the US Parliament at the beginning of October and emphasized that Facebook puts its own profit above the common good. Extensive documents that Haugen submitted to the Wall Street Journal clarified the damage caused by the platform. According to Haugen, Facebook knows that Instagram has a negative impact on children’s psyche.

Next week there is to be a second hearing on the planned legislative reforms.


(mack)

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