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President Biden calls for legislation on 'Big Tech' accountability

President Joe Biden was critical of the tech industry in an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, calling on Democrats and Republicans to push bipartisan legislation to hold big tech companies accountable for how they use consumers' data. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
1 of 4 | President Joe Biden was critical of the tech industry in an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, calling on Democrats and Republicans to push bipartisan legislation to hold big tech companies accountable for how they use consumers' data. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden was critical of the tech industry in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, calling on Democrats and Republicans to push bipartisan legislation to hold big tech companies accountable for how they use consumers' data.

The president said America's tech industry is the "most innovative in the world" but he is concerned about how some companies collect and use data, and their role in nurturing extremist views.

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"As I said last year in my State of the Union address, millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma and mental health. We must hold social-media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit," Biden said.

Biden said companies use personal data to tailor content for users in an exploitative fashion, keeping them on platforms by feeding them "extreme and polarizing" content that can be linked to real-world violence. Users are often exposed to problematic and sometimes illegal content including nonconsensual pornography and material that exploits children.

Among the goals of the legislation Biden would like to see are federal privacy protections and significant reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make companies responsible for the content posted on their platforms. As written, the act protects companies from being liable for the activities of their users.

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"The law has been applied to protect online service providers like social media companies from lawsuits based on their decisions to transmit or take down user-generated content," a 2021 congressional report reads.

Apps such as TikTok have mysterious algorithms that determine what content is shown to users. Biden said more transparency is needed about these algorithms as well.

In December, the U.S. House of Representatives advanced the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which still seeks approval from the Senate Commerce Committee before being voted on in the Senate. The bill is tailored to create oversight on companies' data collection practices and establish foundational data rights for consumers.

Biden was also critical of the role of tech companies in weakening the position of brick-and-mortar small businesses. He suggested adopting legislation that is in line with his 2021 executive order targeted at increasing fairness and competition in the market. He said he would like to see small businesses be able to compete with larger companies on an even playing field.

"There will be many policy issues we disagree on in the new Congress, but bipartisan proposals to protect our privacy and our children; to prevent discrimination, sexual exploitation, and cyberstalking; and to tackle anticompetitive conduct shouldn't separate us," he said.

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"Let's unite behind our shared values and show the nation we can work together to get the job done."

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