WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, today applauded the Senate Commerce Committee’s unanimous passage of his bipartisan Filter Bubble Transparency Act, which was included in a larger bill to address kids’ safety on the internet. Thune’s bill would make it easier for internet platform users to understand the potential manipulation that exists with secret algorithms and require large-scale platforms to allow those users to consume information outside of that potential manipulation zone or “filter bubble.”
“Consumers deserve more transparency when it comes to how social media and other internet platforms use algorithms to amplify or suppress content on their services,” said Thune. “This bill helps consumers better understand how algorithms are used to select content in their ‘feed’ and gives users more control over what information they are digesting. I hope Leader Schumer will prioritize big tech transparency legislation and bring this important bill to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.”
The Filter Bubble Transparency Act would require large-scale internet platforms that collect data from more than 1 million users and gross more than $50 million per year to disclose algorithm use to consumers and allow users to view content that has not been curated as a result of a secret algorithm. The bill would also make it unlawful for any person to operate a covered internet platform that uses a secret algorithm unless the platform complies with the two above requirements. The Federal Trade Commission would enforce the legislation’s requirements, and it would be authorized to seek civil penalties for knowing violations.
Thune first introduced the legislation in 2019 and reintroduced it during the 117th Congress. In June 2019, Thune led a hearing entitled, “Optimizing for Engagement: Understanding the Use of Persuasive Technology on Internet Platforms,” where he pressed technology experts, including current and former Google employees, on how algorithmic decision-making and machine learning on internet platforms influences the public. In December 2021, Thune helped lead a subcommittee hearing titled, “Disrupting Dangerous Algorithms: Addressing the Harms of Persuasive Technology,” where he questioned industry experts on Big Tech’s use of persuasive technology.