Massive online platforms like Facebook and Google generate profits by selling advertisers the ability to target us. Using the data these platforms collect about our every online action, advertisers can run targeted ads to disenfranchise voters, spread lies that capitalize on fear, and manipulate public opinion.
The status quo works perfectly well for tech companies and deceitful advertisers, but not for online users and not for our democracy.
Currently, massive tech companies are not even required to keep track of the ads on their platforms. Some companies created ad libraries, but those databases often leave out key information. Researchers aiming to study online advertising are denied reliable access to the information they need; however, platforms spend millions funding “independent” research to support their point of view.
We need clear regulations that large technology companies must follow to increase transparency, starting with the Social Media DATA Act.
The Social Media DATA Act (H.R. 3451), introduced in May by Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), will increase transparency and help us to diagnose and fix problems while holding large online platforms accountable. The bill has two key components:
1. Requiring large online platforms to maintain an ad library for academic researchers and the FTC that includes details about the cost of the ad, how it was targeted, the number of views it receives and more.
2. Establishing a working group to provide recommendations about how independent research that relies on social media data can be done in a way that protects researchers’ integrity and online users’ rights to privacy. The working group would be convened by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Send a message to your member of Congress and ask them to cosponsor the Social Media DATA Act.
About the Social Media DATA Act
- Rep. Eshoo, Anna G. [D-CA-18]
- Rep. Wexton, Jennifer [D-VA-10]
- Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark [D-CA-11]
- Rep. Raskin, Jamie [D-MD-8]
- Rep. Cicilline, David N. [D-RI-1]
- Rep. Lee, Barbara [D-CA-13]
The Social Media DATA Act is supported by a diverse set of organizations fighting for a stronger democracy, including: