US Senate Proposes Bill for Disclosing Search Algorithms

- November 4th, 2019

The bipartisan bill would force internet platforms to disclose intellectual property and “filter bubbles” to users.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal on October 31, the US Senate is proposing a bipartisan bill that would make companies with search engines, such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), reveal their search algorithms.

Called the Filter Bubble Transparency Act, the legislation is calling for these companies to also give users the option for unfiltered search results.

“Filter bubbles” are created when an individual makes a search on the internet and the results that are produced contain only information or views that confirm the individual’s beliefs.

This is also a reference to a book written by Eli Pariser in 2012 called The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think.

According to the first paragraph of the bill, the Senate is aiming to circumvent the unyielding power of tech giants. If passed, the act would “require that internet platforms give users the option to engage with a platform without being manipulated by algorithms driven by user-specific data.”

Central to the bill is for these companies to describe how their algorithms are created. In other words, they would be forced to disclose their intellectual property.

Companies that have 500 or fewer employees, make annual revenues of under US$50 million or have data on less than 1 million individuals would be excluded from the requirements of the bill.

Currently, Google is entrenched in antitrust probes in Europe, South Korea and the US. With investigations from the Federal Trade Commission on its search practices, the Senate Judiciary Committee has called on Google CEO Eric Schmidt to testify as recently as September.

Facebook has faced similar inquiries. As of late October, 31 attorney generals had agreed to sign on to its antitrust investigations, according to TechCrunch.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Dorothy Neufeld, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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