U.S. senators announce bipartisan social media data transparency bill

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) gives a copy of her book "Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age" to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., April 28, 2021. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three U.S. senators, two Democrats and a Republican, announced on Thursday a bill to require social media companies like Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms Inc, to give certain researchers access to its data.

Senators Chris Coons and Amy Klobuchar, both Democrats, announced the bill along with Rob Portman, a Republican. It would require the companies to release internal data and assist independent researchers whose projects have been vetted by the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency.

"Researchers would then be able to examine the data and release findings on the platforms' impact to the public," the lawmakers' offices said in a joint statement. Throughout the process, users' privacy would be protected.

Companies that fail to turn over wanted data could face enforcement from the Federal Trade Commission and could lose their immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That provision says that the platforms cannot be held responsible for posting put up by users or other third parties.

There is currently no House of Representatives companion to the proposed bill.

Photo-sharing app Instagram, a subsidiary of Meta, has come under particular scrutiny over the potential impact of its services on the mental health and online safety of young users. Instagram responded to the concerns by suspending plans for a children's version of the app. It also tightened some rules just this week.

"Increasing transparency around Big Tech practices will give policymakers the high-quality, well-vetted information we need to do our job most effectively," Portman said in a statement.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Richard Pullin)

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