Bill Could Force Facebook, Instagram to Change How Their Feeds Work

A new bipartisan bill has been introduced into the United States Senate that takes aim at algorithmic-based feeds like those on Facebook and Instagram. The bill would direct two government agencies to investigate ways to add friction to content sharing.

Force Social Media Companies to Slow Down Spread of Harmful Content

The Social Media NUDGE Act, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), would direct the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study ways to add friction to sharing content online in a neutral manner, The Verge reports.

The bill would ask researchers to find several ways to slow down how misinformation or other harmful content spreads on social media. One example is how Twitter and Facebook already prompt users to read an article before sharing it, but the researchers would be tasked with finding and suggesting other similarly neutral methods.

“The NUDGE Act is a good step toward fully addressing Big Tech overreach,” Lummis says in a statement. “By empowering the [NSF] and [NASEM] to study the addictiveness of social media platforms, we’ll begin to fully understand the impact the designs of these platforms and their algorithms have on our society. From there, we can build guardrails to protect children in Wyoming from the negative effects of social media.”

“For too long, tech companies have said ‘Trust us, we’ve got this,’” Klobuchar says. “But we know that social media platforms have repeatedly put profits over people, with algorithms pushing dangerous content that hooks users and spreads misinformation.”

The Latest Legislation Aimed at Curtailing Algorithmic Feeds

The Social Media NUDGE Act is the latest bill that aims to find a way to force social media hosts to take some responsibility for the content on their platforms. Last November, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced a bill that would make it mandatory for services that use algorithms to serve content to also offer a way for users to turn that off. Instagram has already announced it is bringing back the chronological feed, likely in response to public and political pressure.

The previous March, The Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act was introduced that would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to remove liability protection from a platform that was found to have amplified content that violated civil rights.

What makes the NUDGE Act attractive to advocates is that it doesn’t directly change Section 230 rules, which have thus far been a major hurdle lawmakers have been unable to jump.