Social Media Algorithms Deserve Real Scrutiny from Congress

Alec Saslow | October 21, 2020

Statement from MapLight’s Digital Deception Project Director Ann Ravel on the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act

Following the introduction of a new bill this week by Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and remove immunity from liability for internet platforms when their algorithms amplify harmful content leading to offline violence, Ann Ravel, Digital Deception Project Director at MapLight, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the  leadership in Congress that recognizes the dangerous role of social media platforms in fostering both online and offline radicalization. Business models and algorithms designed to maximize attention, engagement, and outrage have degraded the quality of information online while boosting disinformation and propaganda that leads to violence.

“Social media platforms can indeed act swiftly and effectively to limit disinformation when they are pressed, as we saw earlier this year in their response to misleading and deceptive content about COVID-19. But too often, the platforms have no incentives to stop the spread of harmful content. Instead, the companies’ business models reward inflammatory content that leads to more clicks and shares. Big tech has shown it cannot be trusted with so much power; now Congress must step in to pass laws that protect our democracy and our communities from such recklessness. Holding platforms accountable for the harm caused by their algorithms is an important step and the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act deserves serious consideration.”