Winona Daily News

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U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced bipartisan legislation to address negative impacts of social media.

The Nudging Users to Drive Good Experiences on Social Media (Social Media NUDGE) Act would establish studies to examine and recommend interventions to reduce addiction and the amplification of harmful content on social media platforms. Following the initial study, the legislation would hold platforms accountable for following through on recommendations.

“For too long, tech companies have said ‘Trust us, we’ve got this.’ But we know that social media platforms have repeatedly put profits over people, with algorithms pushing dangerous content that hooks users and spreads misinformation. This bill will help address these practices, including by implementing changes that increase transparency and improve user experience. It’s past time to pass meaningful reforms that address social media’s harms to our communities head-on,” said Klobuchar.

“The NUDGE Act is a good step toward fully addressing Big Tech overreach,” said Lummis. “By empowering the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study the addictiveness of social media platforms, we’ll begin to fully understand the impact the designs of these platforms and their algorithms have on our society. From there, we can build guardrails to protect children in Wyoming from the negative effects of social media. We can build a healthier internet without the federal government dictating what people can and can’t say.”

Research on social media addiction continues to paint a grim picture for Minnesotans and Americans nationwide. Facebook's own internal research found that “Young people are acutely aware that Instagram can be bad for their mental health, yet are compelled to spend time on the app for fear of missing out on cultural or social trends,” and a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 54 percent of teens say they spend too much time on their cell phones.

The Social Media NUDGE Act would:

• Direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to work with the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to conduct a study to identify content-neutral interventions – like asking users if they want to read an article before sharing it – for social media platforms to implement to reduce social media addiction and the spread of harmful content;

• Require:

o The NASEM to report the study’s findings, including recommendations of which interventions are relevant to specific social media platforms, to the NSF, Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and to update the study’s findings biannually;

o The FTC to conduct a rulemaking on how to apply the findings to platforms; and

o Social media platforms to implement recommendations and publicly disclose information about their compliance, the impact of the interventions, and other statistics related to required changes and content on their platforms.

• Hold social media platforms accountable by treating violations as unfair or deceptive acts or practices. Enforcement will be handled by the FTC.

Klobuchar, a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, is a leading voice on taking on big tech platforms to protect users and competition.

Last fall, she held roundtables with parents across Minnesota to discuss concerns about the impacts of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets on their children. Parents shared a range of worries spanning a range of issues, from privacy to dangerous content and misinformation.

Klobuchar has also participated in several Senate hearings on protecting kids online.