Over 40 leading human rights and tech advocacy groups launched a major campaign Wednesday to stop Facebook from unfairly harvesting user data and using surveillance-driven algorithms, the first coordinated grassroots push to do so in the wake of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen's revelations regarding the tech giant.
Haugen, a former Facebook employee, recently gave a trove of internal company documents to the Wall Street Journal regarding the social media company's negative effects on teenage girls' mental health, its use by drug cartels and human traffickers, its special rules for VIPs, and its amplification of harmful content through algorithms.
Advocacy groups critical of Big Tech, such as Fight for the Future and the Center for Digital Democracy, along with human rights organizations such as the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center, are calling on the federal government to create a law “strong enough to end Facebook’s current business model.”
The campaign, HowToStopFacebook.org, aims to drive emails and phone calls to Congress demanding they conduct a full investigation of Facebook using subpoena powers and pass a federal data privacy law that makes it illegal for companies such as Facebook and YouTube to collect user data to power their personalized recommendation algorithms.
“The problem with companies like Facebook and YouTube is not that they host user generated content, it’s that they use surveillance-driven algorithms to pick and choose what content goes viral and what content no one sees, in order to keep us all on the platform clicking and scrolling to maximize advertising revenue,” Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “It’s challenging to regulate algorithms directly, but lawmakers can cut off the fuel supply for Facebook’s destructive machine by enacting a real Federal data privacy law strong enough to effectively kill surveillance capitalism as a business model.”
A majority of U.S. voters favor a tax on the profits that Big Tech companies generate from the collection of personal user data in order to reduce the incentive to collect this type of data unfairly, according to a poll from September.
The findings are particularly relevant because of the recent introduction of legislation in New York state that would provide New Yorkers "compensation for the free labor they provide to big tech companies," according to a press release for the bill, referring to companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
The campaign said that although the two major political parties and civil society groups disagree about whether and how to regulate algorithms, there is a "strong consensus" that a federal data privacy law would significantly reduce the harm of social media platforms.
“Congress could take a massive step to reduce Facebook’s power and influence if it passed a strong, comprehensive privacy law now,” said Sara Collins, policy counsel at Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group.
“The harms described by Ms. Haugen are fueled by unrestrained data collection and data use. A federal privacy law that addresses collection and use, rather than relies on outdated notions of notice and choice, would begin to rectify the power imbalance between internet users and tech companies," she added.
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Original Author: Nihal Krishan
Original Location: Liberal advocacy groups launch ‘How to Stop Facebook’ campaign