Lawmakers want to strip legal protections from the Facebook News Feed

Democratic legislators want social media platforms to be held accountable if they suggest harmful content to users. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Frank Pallone Jr., Anna Eshoo and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Mike Doyle Jr. (D-PA) and Mike Doyle Jr. (D-NJ) introduced the Justice Against Malicious Algorithms Act. This would amend Section 230s protections so that personalized recommendations are not allowed for content that causes severe or physical injury.
Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, recommended the bill to Congress. Haugen, an ex-employe who leaked extensive Facebook research, advised Congress to clamp down on algorithms that rank, promote, or order content based upon user engagement. This applies to web services that have more than 5 million monthly users. It excludes certain types of material like infrastructure services such as web hosting or systems that return search results.

Search rankings and small services are exempted from the bill.

The bill covers platforms that are covered by Section 230 of Communications Decency Act. This section prohibits users from suing web service providers over third-party content they post. These cases would be allowed to proceed if the services used a personalized algorithm to recommend third-party content. This could include accounts, posts, groups, and any other information provided by users.

Although the bill would allow people to sue for hate speech or anorexia-related material, it wouldn't permit them to sue. Many of the material in question is legal in the United States. Therefore, platforms don't need additional liability protection for hosting it. Sites that promote extremism or disinformation are also criticized in a Pallone statement. These sites are not necessarily illegal. The bill does not cover personalized recommendations. This is a recommendation that uses an algorithm that depends on personal information to sort content.

Haugen stated in her testimony that the goal was adding general legal risk so that Facebook and other similar companies would stop using personalized recommendations. She stated that if we reform [Section] 233, Facebook would be held responsible for their ranking decisions.


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