U.S. Senator Warner eyes social media bills for hate speech, data portability


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who co-sponsored legislation this week to ban deceptive practices by social media companies, said on Thursday he was eyeing additional bills aimed at limiting hate speech and allowing users to move their data across platforms.

The Democratic lawmaker said he would offer more bills in the next month or two, ideally with Republican colleagues as a co-sponsor.

The additional legislation could focus on hate speech, data portability, which gives social media users the ability to easily take their data to another site, and transparency about who or what is on the other side of an internet conversation, Warner said in an interview with Reuters.

On Tuesday, Warner joined with Republican Senator Deb Fischer to introduce a bill to bar online platforms like Facebook Inc or Alphabet Inc’s Google from misleading people into giving personal data to companies, or otherwise tricking them.

It would also ban online platforms with more than 100 million monthly active users from designing addicting games or other websites for children under age 13.

Warner is eager to increase transparency on social media platforms.

“Shouldn’t we have the right to know whether we’re being contacted by a human being versus a bot when you’re on social media?” he said.

Issues of engagement and data collection are key for social media companies since they use information gathered about users to sell advertisements, a key source of profit.

Warner noted the real-life implications of hate speech on social media, pointing to mass killings in New Zealand and Pittsburgh.

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) talks with military families about their hazardous living conditions during a meeting at the Peninsula Workforce Development Office in Newport News, Virginia, U.S. March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ryan M. Kelly

In a massacre in New Zealand, a gunman opened fire in two mosques on March 15, killing 50 people as he broadcast the attack live on Facebook. Last year, 11 people were shot to death in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The man accused in the killings had made aggressive anti-Semitic comments in online forums.

Some of the proposed legislation could be rolled into a federal privacy bill being drafted in Congress. That bill was prompted by California’s data privacy law that imposes fines of up to $7,500 on large companies for intentional failure to disclose data collection or delete user data on request, or for selling others’ data without permission. It takes effect next year.

“I want technology to stay. I want the social media platforms to stay,” Warner said. “But I do think the days of the Wild Wild West where anything goes, people just aren’t going to allow it.”

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Peter Cooney



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