White House consults experts, lays down a six-point plan to increase Big Tech accountability

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 87   +41
Staff
Forward-looking: A White House meeting held a broad discussion about Big Tech companies, privacy, discrimination and social media, highlighting the risks posed by the online world and preparing six principles to put a far-reaching reform of the technology sector down in actual law proposals.

Members of Joe Biden's cabinet, tech executives and experts have recently joined a listening session at the White House, in a meeting held to discuss the challenges of "tech platforms" and the possible improvements lawmakers can bring to the current market situation. At the end of the meeting, representatives from the Biden-Harris Administration announced six "core principles" which should inspire future reforms.

According to the official White House write-up, attendees at the meeting included several members of Biden's cabinet, president and CEO of Center for Democracy and Technology Alexandra Reeve Givens, CEO of the Mozilla Corporation Mitchell Baker, and Sonos CEO Patrick Spence. The discussion was focused on the dangers and harms brought by the biggest tech platforms, a growing cause for concern that should be addressed with effective law initiatives and greater accountability.

While the rise of technology platforms and big tech companies has helped people get connected, created a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and opened new product and market opportunities, the White House argues new challenges were introduced as well. Today's technology is also being used to spread "online toxic cultures," which fuel tragic acts of violence, and to violate basic rights of Americans and communities worldwide while mental health and wellbeing are deteriorating.

Another important issue tackled at the White House was the effect of anti-competitive conduct by large platforms on small and mid-size businesses, as well as restrictions on how major products operate and sheer market power can -- and usually do -- influence consumer prices.

Other meeting participants raised alarming concerns about the "rampant" collection of vast troves of personal data, a true digital treasure that social media platforms are using to maximize user engagement by showing tailored and often "sensational, extreme and polarizing" content to keep users' attention and drive profits.

After discussing these pressing topics, the Biden-Harris Administration drafted six "core principles" of what could be a comprehensive reform of the entire tech market in the United States. Worth reading, Techdirt's Mike Masnick takes issue with the six proposed principles, which are as follows:

  • Promote competition in the technology sector, with a new set of clean rules designed to ensure small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs can compete on a level playing field
  • Provide robust federal protections for Americans' privacy, with clear limits on the ability to collect, use, transfer, and maintain American netizens' personal data, including limits on targeted advertising
  • Protect kids by putting in place even stronger privacy and online protections for them, prioritizing safety-by-design standards and practices for online platforms, products, and services
  • Remove special legal protections for large tech platforms, which would fundamentally change the much discussed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
  • Increase transparency about platform's algorithms and content moderation decisions, to shine a light over the notoriously opaque rules dictating how contents are managed and removed on social media
  • Stop discriminatory algorithmic decision-making, to ensure algorithms do not discriminate against protected groups through persistent surveillance

Permalink to story.

 

Revolution 11

Posts: 235   +329
Most of these seem sensible on paper but #4 on revoking section 230 seems like outright insanity to me. Section 230 is what allows any user-generated content to exist without retaliation on the Internet. Does anyone even read the law they are trying to change?
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,323   +8,522
Most of these seem sensible on paper but #4 on revoking section 230 seems like outright insanity to me. Section 230 is what allows any user-generated content to exist without retaliation on the Internet. Does anyone even read the law they are trying to change?

Unfortunately section 230 also unfairly protects these same companies from their legal obligations and allows them to operate with no regard to honesty, decency, or responsibility. At minimum they should be held to the same standard at the broadcast industry and NOT be given a free ride from liability.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
Revoking section 230 seems like outright insanity to me. Section 230 is what allows any user-generated content to exist
Sec 230 immunity was predicated on the assumption that social media was a neutral platform that exercised no editorial control over its content. That hasn't been true for years. Twitter and Facebook regularly encourage and promote certain content types, while labeling others -- even factual content -- as "disinformation". They're thus no different from any other publisher, and should be held to the same standard.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,461   +6,650
"Today's technology is also being used to spread "online toxic cultures," which fuel tragic acts of violence, and to violate basic rights of Americans and communities worldwide while mental health and wellbeing are deteriorating."

The Biden campaign RELIED on social media to do exactly these things.
 

EndRessentiment

Posts: 68   +62
I think this is a good enough point of departure, though we of course have to see what it leads to.

Oh Stop with the lies already

Please refrain from hollow political slogans. It doesn't help anybody.

And AFAIK Techspot isn't a US-only website - most people outside the US have very little in common with the GOP and its hollow, vocal and toxic rhetoric (I'm one of those people outside the US).
Note that I'm not saying Biden/Democrats are great, I'm hardly a fan...
 

Revolution 11

Posts: 235   +329
Sec 230 immunity was predicated on the assumption that social media was a neutral platform that exercised no editorial control over its content. That hasn't been true for years. Twitter and Facebook regularly encourage and promote certain content types, while labeling others -- even factual content -- as "disinformation". They're thus no different from any other publisher, and should be held to the same standard.
That's a fair point. Facebook should just list their feed chronologically with no algorithmic sorting to get Sec 230 protections.
 

mountains

Posts: 77   +91
I read this article and most of the linked counter article. There has to be a balance between government and industry. While in theory some of this stuff is good, government by itself is poorly placed to regulate it, and business is poorly placed to put fair and proper limits on it's own behavior.

Also, I would like to see the current American administration include voices from both sides of politics to limit the crazies on both sides.

Finally, tech in general needs to operate on real standards that are open to small/medium business, as well as open-source projects. Phones, Roombas, Alexas, Internet-of-things, etc should be transparent, privacy respecting, and available to open source alternatives.
 

RudyBob

Posts: 824   +834
I think this is a good enough point of departure, though we of course have to see what it leads to.



Please refrain from hollow political slogans. It doesn't help anybody.

And AFAIK Techspot isn't a US-only website - most people outside the US have very little in common with the GOP and its hollow, vocal and toxic rhetoric (I'm one of those people outside the US).
Note that I'm not saying Biden/Democrats are great, I'm hardly a fan...
Nothing hollow about it. It's Oak when it's on my side and it's Oak when on the other side
 

EndRessentiment

Posts: 68   +62
Sure it I
Nothing hollow about it. It's Oak when it's on my side and it's Oak when on the other side
Sure it is. Just saying that the government is lying without any argument, explanation or evidence IS hollow. If that isn't, then what is?

It's better to not join in with these attitudes of "anyone can say anything and still pretend to be justified doing it" or "whatever I call fake news is fake news". Things are supposed to at least seem like they can stand up to some scrutiny. It should be more than just feels.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,087   +3,985
TechSpot Elite
"Members of Joe Biden's cabinet, tech executives and experts"

Tech executives? Yeah, this will go nowhere. Why on Earth would you have the people that are to be regulated involved in the very policies that they'll have to abide by?

What's next, asking psychopaths what the murder laws should be?

It doesn't matter I guess. The damaging leadership of the Republicans combined with the ineffectual leadership of the Democrats only guarantees that things will keep getting worse and the USA as we know it won't exist in 2030.
 

Revolution 11

Posts: 235   +329
I read this article and most of the linked counter article. There has to be a balance between government and industry. While in theory some of this stuff is good, government by itself is poorly placed to regulate it, and business is poorly placed to put fair and proper limits on it's own behavior.

Also, I would like to see the current American administration include voices from both sides of politics to limit the crazies on both sides.

Finally, tech in general needs to operate on real standards that are open to small/medium business, as well as open-source projects. Phones, Roombas, Alexas, Internet-of-things, etc should be transparent, privacy respecting, and available to open source alternatives.
I have to ask, how do you expect platforms and tech to operate on open standards and also be transparent, privacy respecting, and available to open source alternatives without being forced to do so by a government that is "poorly placed to regulate it"? Are they going to do it from the goodness and purity of their hearts?

While we are at it making unicorn wishes, I would like a free Ferrari, a paid-for 7000-sq ft house in Malibu, CA, and to win the Mega Millions lottery.