Bill sponsored by lawmakers spreading COVID misinfo and xenophobic content
On Tuesday, Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) and Burgess Owens (R-Utah) introduced legislation requiring social media platforms to let users select a version of their services where content selections are not driven by algorithms. The new legislation comes in response to the Facebook whistleblower documents, although industry experts have warned that eliminating algorithmic news feeds could exacerbate the problem of harmful content online.
“Algorithms are what protect people online from spam, scams, and hate speech, so requiring Facebook and Twitter to provide algorithm-free feeds is like demanding that they offer a ride in the Internet’s worst filth,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich. “Most people want online services to moderate more content, not expose them to a completely unfiltered stream,” Kovacevich added, pointing to a recent Morning Consult survey showing that 70% of the public backs stricter content standards online.
Kovacevich added that the two Republican cosponsors are themselves top purveyors of misinformation that this bill mandates carriage of. “If Republican lawmakers are concerned about harmful content on social media, they should take a long look in the mirror,” Kovaceivich said. “Reps. Ken Buck and Burgess Owens are top contributors to COVID-19 misinformation and xenophobia, both on and offline. It’s no wonder they want to mandate Facebook and Twitter to carry their lies, unchecked.”
Social media companies use algorithms to demote content including health misinformation, spam sites, and hate speech. Studies also show that when social media platforms have switched off algorithmic content selection for news feeds, users have a worse experience.
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