by William Patrick
Louisiana U.S. Sen. John Kennedy has introduced a bill to limit protections for social media companies that secretly leverage user data to promote divisive content.
Kennedy, a Republican, blasted Silicon Valley behemoths such as Facebook and Twitter for “provoking” platform users and blamed the “manipulative” business practice for causing unnecessary social conflict.
“Social media giants are using people’s data to manipulate them into spending more time on their sites, but the price is a more polarized America,” Kennedy said in a statement. “It’s time to stop rewarding platforms that use their algorithms to target users with content that plays on individuals’ emotions without their consent.”
The bill would deny legal immunity under the Communications Act of 1934, a Roosevelt administration law that allows Section 230 protections for websites hosting third-party content.
Critics allege the internet-based juggernauts should be defined as publishers under the law, not neutral platforms, and thereby subject to the same regulatory scrutiny as radio- and TV-based companies.
Kennedy highlighted the use of so-called “hot buttons,” or selectively identified issues that cause strong emotional reactions, which are then implemented into algorithms to intentionally show users content designed to agitate them.
“If these companies wield user data to foment division, they should not continue to enjoy such unfettered liability protections,” Kennedy said.
The 69-year-old first-term senator announced his reelection bid in June. He reportedly raised more than $3 million last quarter with roughly $1 million occurring in the past 30 days.
Now in campaign mode, Kennedy posted a Fox News interview to his Twitter account Tuesday – one day after filing the Senate legislation – wherein he decries internet political censorship.
“I trust social media like I trust Bill Cosby as a bartender,” he said.
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