US Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) wants establish a federal oversight body that will focus on overseeing digital platforms and technology giants. The MP introduced Digital Platforms Commission Act (PDF) in Congress in the hope of establishing a five-member federal body appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. They will be experts in relevant fields, including computer science, software development and technology policy.
The Commission will be responsible for ensuring the “fairness and security of digital platform algorithms” as well as promoting competition. It will also have the power to investigate, impose sanctions and set new rules, such as those that ensure transparency of moderation and consumer protection. The Commission will also set requirements for regular public assessments of the risk of disseminating harmful content on digital platforms.
Within the Codex Committee, composed of technologists and public interest experts, it will devise standards and policies that could be implemented. In addition, the commission will set up a research office with 20 dedicated staff to conduct internal research and coordinate with external scientists and experts.
As stated in the Notice of Legislation, the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are responsible for overseeing digital platforms today. However, Bennett claims that they lack the expert staff and technology-oriented culture needed for stable oversight.
The Washington Post reports that Bennett’s motivation is his personal experience of watching misinformation as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as seeing how social media has affected his children. However, as the publication notes, it remains to be seen whether the legislation will be approved by the Senate, where Democrats have a 50-50 majority.
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