A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Thursday aimed at increasing social media data transparency that could strip noncompliant platforms of their legal immunity for user-generated content.

The bill is meant to increase the accountability and transparency of social media platforms by forcing them to allow academics, researchers, and members of the public to access private data in order to study their targeted advertising systems and algorithms, which have significantly hurt some users in the past.

The legislation is representative of a growing bipartisan movement in Congress to try and rein in Big Tech companies by changing their behavior through greater transparency, rather than the more radical actions favored by some on the left and right, such as aggressive government regulations or breaking up the companies.

The Platform Accountability and Transparency Act, introduced by Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, would instruct the Federal Trade Commission to issue new rules that establish requirements for social media platforms to make certain data of theirs available to researchers and the public by submitting data requests through the National Science Foundation.

"We think it’s the kind of research that needs to happen in order for us to have a real fleshed-out understanding of how these platforms are affecting us,” an aide to Coons told the Wall Street Journal.

Congress has intensely scrutinized the mental health of teenagers on social media platforms like Facebook in the past few months and criticized some platforms for their lack of transparency when it comes to internal data that shine a light on harms done to users.

The bill would also create a social media platform accountability and transparency office within the trade commission to deal with issues and questions related to how researchers access the data and the privacy and cybersecurity of the platforms.


If, however, social media giants like Instagram and YouTube aren't compliant with the new data-sharing rules in the bill, their actions would be classified as an unfair or deceptive practice by the federal government.

Those platforms that flout such rules and could then be stripped of their legal immunity for user-generated content provided to them by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 if civil claims are brought against the platform and their noncompliance with the bill's rules played a significant role in causing alleged harms to users.

The bill is being introduced at a time when social media platforms face increasing scrutiny from the Left and the Right for allegedly harming the mental health of users and infringing on their privacy.

A bipartisan group of senators announced earlier this month that it will launch an investigation into Instagram and its parent company, Meta, after a report emerged that the technology giant had internal data showing its platform could be "toxic" for some young users.


“These studies and research are really important for parents to make decisions,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said Wednesday during a Senate Commerce hearing where Instagram’s top executive, Adam Mosseri, was grilled about the internal data that his company gives to researchers to analyze.