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White House Outlines Parameters For Big Tech Reform

Listening session reiterated calls to reform section 230

White House Outlines Parameters For Big Tech Reform

Biden administration officials have detailed six core principles for reforming social media companies and said that the administration will continue working with Congress and other stakeholders to make bipartisan progress on Big Tech issues.

The White House issued a readout of a roundtable discussion held on Sept. 8, which focused on increasing accountability for Big Tech companies and limiting harm that can be done to users of social media platforms.

Topics addressed in the listening session with administration officials and other experts included: competition; privacy; youth mental health; misinformation and disinformation; illegal and abusive conduct, including sexual exploitation; and algorithmic discrimination and lack of transparency.

“Several participants raised concerns about the rampant collection of vast troves of personal data by tech platforms,” the administration said. “Other participants sounded the alarm about risks for reproductive rights and individual safety associated with companies collecting sensitive personal information, from where their users are physically located to their medical histories and choices.”

According to the White House, experts who participated in the discussion said that lack of transparency creates a barrier to meaningful accountability, as algorithms cannot be scrutinized by anyone outside of the company.

Participants told administration officials that “a small number of dominant Internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants” and that to address this, the U.S. needs “clear rules of the road to ensure small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs can compete on a level playing field.”

The panel recommended strengthening protections for sensitive data, including geolocation, health information, and data associated with reproductive health.

Protecting children and addressing the impact technology can have on them was a focus as well. Experts suggested stronger privacy protections, restricting data collection and targeted advertising to youth. Attendees of the listening session urged tech platforms to “prioritize the safety and wellbeing of young people above profit and revenue in their product design.”

The group also discussed removing legal protections Big Tech companies enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, increasing public transparency on how and why decisions to display and remove content are made, and ensuring protections to algorithms do not expose individuals to persistent surveillance.

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