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US plans big tech regulatory framework

The White House has outlined six principles it aims to follow in order to reform big tech

The White House has unveiled six principles to reform big tech after meeting with experts yesterday.

The US government organised a meeting on tech platform accountability where it focused on the harms that tech platforms cause and the need for greater accountability. The event brought together representatives from various organisations including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Mozilla Foundation, and Sonos.

The first principle is to promote competition in the technology sector, the Biden-Harris administration said at the event. It said that a small number of dominant internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants, engage in rent-seeking, and gather intimate personal information that they can use to their advantage. It underlined clear rules are needed to level the playing field for small and mid-sized businesses as well as entrepreneurs.

The second principle is to provide robust federal protections for US citizens’ privacy. The administration called for clear limits on the ability to collect, use, transfer, and maintain our personal data, including limits on targeted advertising. It said especially strong protections were needed for sensitive data like geolocation and health information, including reproductive health.

The third principle is to protect children by putting in place even stronger privacy and online protections for them, including prioritising 'safety by design' standards and practices for online platforms, products, and services. 

The fourth principle is to remove special legal protections for large tech platforms. They are currently protected by protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which broadly shield them from liability even when they host or disseminate illegal, violent conduct, or materials.

The fifth principle is to increase transparency about platforms’ algorithms and content moderation decisions. The administration said that platforms are failing to provide sufficient transparency to allow the public and researchers to understand how and why decisions around their content are made, their potential effects on users, and the very real dangers these decisions may pose.

Lastly, the administration’s sixth principle is to stop discriminatory algorithmic decision-making. It called for strong protections to ensure algorithms do not discriminate against protected groups, such as by failing to share key opportunities equally, by discriminatorily exposing vulnerable communities to risky products, or through persistent surveillance.

“Although tech platforms can help keep us connected, create a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and open up new opportunities for bringing products and services to market, they can also divide us and wreak serious real-world harms,” said the White House. “The rise of tech platforms has introduced new and difficult challenges, from the tragic acts of violence linked to toxic online cultures, to deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, to basic rights of Americans and communities worldwide suffering from the rise of tech platforms big and small.”

Earlier this week, a bipartisan US antitrust bill which might soon be voted on in the Senate faced fierce opposition from tech giants. There were reports that Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta have spent around $95 million since 2021 to lobby against support for the bill, which the tech giants said will limit their ability to run platforms effectively.

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