The US may require social networks to provide data to
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The US may require social networks to provide data to researchers

Last Wednesday, the US Senate held a hearing entitled “Platform Transparency: Understanding the Impact of Social Media.” Legislators have been trying to decide whether there is a need for a law obliging social networks to make the collected data available for research by the public and academics.

    Image source: 1778011 / pixabay.com

Image source: 1778011 / pixabay.com

In December, a group of senators was already preparing a corresponding bill – the Transparency and Accountability Act. The need for such a rule was raised at the hearing by Brandon Silverman, a former Meta employee.* and current co-founder of CrowdTangle, a service that tracks the popularity of Facebook posts.* links and posts. He explained that YouTube, TikTok, Telegram and Snapchat have become the largest and most influential platforms in the US, but are avoiding scrutiny and investigation due to the lack of transparency in their systems.

As a result, the truth about what happens behind the scenes on social media only becomes known to the world after their former employees steal internal documents before being fired and becoming whistleblowers like Frances Haugen. Stanford Law School professor Nate Persily said a law requiring social media to provide transparency would allow the public not to wait for whistleblowers to testify.

    Image Source: Buffik / pixabay.com

Image Source: Buffik / pixabay.com

Stanford even made a list of the most important rules that such a law should contain.

  • Scientists should be able to apply to the US National Science Foundation for social media research. If the application is approved, the administration of the social network provides the scientist with access to the necessary data. Here it is possible to take some protective measures: data anonymization or organization of work only on the territory of the company’s headquarters.
  • The US Federal Trade Commission should be empowered to require social networks to provide certain data on a regular basis, such as statistics on targeted advertising.
  • Platforms should create basic research tools to study the popularity of a particular piece of content.
  • Platforms should not stop the work of independent scientific projects – a mechanism is needed to ensure the privacy of social network users when conducting such research.

According to Professor Persily, with the passage of such a law, the platforms themselves will change their behavior if they know they are being watched. However, the US senators have not yet announced anything specific about how to proceed.

* It is included in the list of public associations and religious organizations for which the court made a final decision, activities on the grounds of Federal Law No. 114-FZ of July 25, 2002 “On Combating Extremist Activity”.

About the author

Robbie Elmers

Robbie Elmers is a staff writer for Tech News Space, covering software, applications and services.

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