In a recent opinion piece submitted to the Wall Street Journal, US President Joe Biden criticized tech companies for what he calls an “experiment” on the nation’s children.
Of note in the article, President Biden criticized how tech companies are incentivized to steer users of all ages towards extremist content in order to keep users engaged.
He goes on to say “big tech companies often use users’ personal data” to direct them towards “extreme and polarizing content that is likely to keep them logged on and clicking.”
Biden also called out section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as problematic, hinting that reforms might be planned.
The wordage here is what allows social media platforms to have some deniability when it comes to extremist content on their platform:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Repealing this provision could speculatively have a chilling effect on free speech. The Communications Decency Act went into effect in 1996, and to be fair we’ve yet to see a modern internet without it.
Some internet users have pointed to the European Union’s Digital Services Act as an example of what a new set of regulation in the US could look like.
Under the Digital Services Act, content platforms are held liable for content posted that they know is illegal and do not act to remove it. This encourages platforms to be overhanded in their moderation, especially when taking into consideration the laws on hate speech in many European countries.
However, some provisions of the act such as disclosing algorithms for transparency’s sake might be more palatable to American voters.
This isn’t the first time that Biden has attacked the tech industry. Back in 2020 he called Silicon Valley leaders “little creeps” who made video games “to teach you how to kill people”.
This opinion piece is largely just throwing ideas out into the wind. At present, President Biden doesn’t seem to have proposed any concrete ideas or legislation on the subject.
This is Niche Culture. In this column, we regularly cover anime, geek culture, and things related to video games.