U.S. Surgeon General Calls for Social Media Warning Labels

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has renewed his push for Congress to enact social media warning label advising of potential mental health damage to adolescents. Murthy also called on tech companies to be more transparent with internal data on the impact of their products on American youth, requesting independent safety audits and restrictions on features that may be addictive, including autoplay, push notifications and infinite scroll, which he suggests “prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use.” His federal campaign joins a groundswell of local laws restricting minors’ access to social media. Continue reading U.S. Surgeon General Calls for Social Media Warning Labels

Senators Ask FCC to Apply Retransmission Rules to VMVPDs

A group of Democratic senators are asking the FCC to explore applying cable and broadcast regulations to streaming outlets in order to ensure local stations are not left behind by the new platforms. In a letter to the five FCC commissioners, 20 lawmakers express “concern for the future of the media market and our constituents’ ability to access broadcasters’ unique locally-focused content on streaming platforms” such as “virtual MVPDs” — services like Sling TV, Verizon FiOS and Hulu that aggregate linear channels on the Internet. The issue has gained attention due largely to the trend toward cord-cutting. Continue reading Senators Ask FCC to Apply Retransmission Rules to VMVPDs

Government Advances Online Safety Legislation for Children

The Senate has cleared two children’s online safety bills despite pushback from civil liberties groups that say the digital surveillance used to monitor behavior will result in an Internet less safe for kids. The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0) are intended to address a mental health crisis experts blame in large part on social media, but critics say the bills could cause more harm than good by forcing social media firms to collect more user data as part of enforcement. The bills — which cleared the Senate Commerce Committee by unanimous vote — are also said to reduce access to encrypted services. Continue reading Government Advances Online Safety Legislation for Children

Senators Question Meta Platforms About Recent LLaMA Leak

Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg received a letter this week from Senators Richard Blumenthal and Josh Hawley of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology & the Law that took the executive to task for an online leak of the company’s LLaMA artificial intelligence system. The 65-billion parameter language model, which is still under development, was open-sourced in February. Available on request through Meta’s GitHub portal, it wound up on 4chan and BitTorrent “making it available to anyone, anywhere in the world, without monitoring or oversight,” the senators wrote. Continue reading Senators Question Meta Platforms About Recent LLaMA Leak

Politicians and Tech Leaders Gather to Discuss Regulating AI

A new government agency that licenses artificial intelligence above a certain capability, regular testing, and independent audits were some of the ideas to spring from a three-hour Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing to explore ways in which the government might regulate the nascent field. OpenAI co-founder and CEO Sam Altman advocated for all of the above, stressing the need for external validation by independent experts, strict cybersecurity, and a “whole of society approach” to combatting disinformation. While Altman emphasized AI’s advantages, he warned “if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong.” Continue reading Politicians and Tech Leaders Gather to Discuss Regulating AI

Meta Touts the Metaverse as Tool for Education, Job Training

While the tech conversation has most recently pivoted to artificial intelligence, Meta Platforms isn’t giving up on the metaverse, though it shifted the focus from fun and games to job training and education at the company’s Future of Work Summit. “When it comes to AR and VR, it’s very obvious to me that one of the most powerful applications is the ability to dramatically improve re-skilling,” Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg said, citing opportunities in skilled trades, teaching and elder care, speaking Tuesday in Washington. Continue reading Meta Touts the Metaverse as Tool for Education, Job Training

AMERICA Act Proposes to Curtail Big Tech’s Ad Dominance

A bipartisan Senate group is supporting a bill aimed at reducing the online advertising dominance of Big Tech platforms like Google, Meta and others. Introduced last week by Mike Lee (R-Utah) and championed by Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), the AMERICA Act — short for Advertising Middlemen Endangering Rigorous Internet Competition Accountability Act — the bill prohibits companies that “process more than $20 billion in digital ad transactions” from owning multiple parts of the digital ecosystem presenting the advertisements. Proponents say the AMERICA Act could radically reshape the advertising framework that underpins the Internet economy. Continue reading AMERICA Act Proposes to Curtail Big Tech’s Ad Dominance

Senate Message to Big Tech Is Expect Reform to Section 230

Bipartisan support is growing in the Senate for changes to Section 230, the part of the Communications Decency Act that grants federal immunity to social media platforms and other tech giants for content users post on their sites. At a combative Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, lawmakers from both parties called for gutting major provisions of the legal liability shield, on which Big Tech has come to rely. Senators accused tech firms of putting profits over user safety and slammed the U.S. Supreme Court, which appeared to approach the matter with caution last month in Gonzalez v. Google. Continue reading Senate Message to Big Tech Is Expect Reform to Section 230

National Security Pressure Continues to Build Against TikTok

Regulatory pressure continues to build against TikTok and the company’s Beijing-based owner. Another state has joined the federal fight to ban the short-form video app, with Virginia this month passing legislation prohibiting TikTok and WeChat from use on state government devices. Meanwhile, on Thursday Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) wrote Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — who also chairs the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. — advising CFIUS  to “impose strict structural restrictions between TikTok’s American operations and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, including potentially separating the companies.” Continue reading National Security Pressure Continues to Build Against TikTok

Senators Grill Live Nation on Antitrust After the Swift Debacle

Anticompetitive practices, outrageous ticket fees and poor customer service were among the allegations leveled at Live Nation Entertainment Tuesday at a contentious Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing over botched Taylor Swift concert ticket presales by the company’s Ticketmaster subsidiary. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) called the Live Nation relationship to Ticketmaster “the definition of monopoly,” adding that venues fearful of losing the company’s concerts don’t have the ability to push back because Live Nation is “so powerful that it doesn’t even need to exert pressure, it doesn’t need to threaten because people just fall in line.” Continue reading Senators Grill Live Nation on Antitrust After the Swift Debacle

TikTok on the Hot Seat at Senate Homeland Security Hearing

Executives from four social media giants defended the privacy, security and content moderation protocols of their platforms to the Senate Homeland Security Committee Wednesday. In her first appearance before Congress, TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas was grilled on whether the short-form video app shares data about American citizens with the Chinese government. ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is based in Beijing, and its potential censorship of user content was another area of concern. Questions for the group — which included representatives from Meta Platforms, YouTube and Twitter — ranged from extremists to biometrics. Continue reading TikTok on the Hot Seat at Senate Homeland Security Hearing

Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Online privacy protections for consumers are in focus on Capitol Hill, with the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) getting particular attention. A coalition of more than 100 organizations, including Fairplay and the American Psychological Association are calling on senators to advance KOSA this month. Co-sponsored by senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), the legislation would require social media platforms to conduct annual audits to identify risks to minors as well as more concrete steps like opting out of algorithmic recommendations and disabling “addictive” features.  Continue reading Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Big Tech Faces Global Pressure to Step Up Child Protections

UK-style child protections are coming to the U.S. if a pair of California state lawmakers have anything to say about it. Assembly members Jordan Cunningham, a Republican, and Buffy Wicks, a Democrat, last week proposed the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, a bill modeled after what is popularly known in the UK as the Children’s Code, and more formally tagged the Age Appropriate Design Code. If enacted, websites and social platforms would have to limit the collection of children’s data in California, enact safeguards protecting minors from other users, minimize addictive features and simplify privacy settings. Continue reading Big Tech Faces Global Pressure to Step Up Child Protections

Kids Online Safety Act Advocates Holding Tech Accountable

A bipartisan bill to protect kids online was introduced Wednesday by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee). The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) would give parents more control over social media settings, add opt-out features and establish a “duty of care” that opens the door to liability and lawsuits. “Big Tech has brazenly failed children and betrayed its trust, putting profits above safety,” said Blumenthal. “This measure makes kids’ safety an Internet priority.” The bill follows a media blitz and months of Congressional hearings on the danger of social media to the mental and physical health of young users. Continue reading Kids Online Safety Act Advocates Holding Tech Accountable

UK Lawmakers Are Taking Steps to Toughen Online Safety Bill

British lawmakers are seeking “major changes” to the forthcoming Online Safety Bill that cracks down on Big Tech but apparently does not go far enough. Expansions under discussion include legal consequences for tech firms and new rules for online fraud, advertising scams and deepfake (AI-generated) adult content. Comparing the Internet to the “Wild West,” Damian Collins, chairman of the joint committee that issued the report, went so far as to suggest corporate directors be subject to criminal liability if their companies withhold information or fail to comply with the act. Continue reading UK Lawmakers Are Taking Steps to Toughen Online Safety Bill