(The Center Square) – Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sent a joint letter to congressional leadership on Wednesday urging lawmakers to enact tougher regulations against social media companies.
In the letter, both Weiser and Shapiro outline several steps to establish “responsible oversight” of social media platforms, such as creating a social media regulatory agency, writing laws that require transparency from the companies, and developing a better understanding of how the algorithms on each platform work.
“It is clear – from your hearings, academic research, and recent investigative reporting – that social media companies and their platforms have a unique ability to harm both the mental health of youth and the stability of our democratic institutions,” the letter reads in part. “Protecting our children, our democracy, our privacy, and competition are critical priorities and are worthy of congressional action.”
The letter was to Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who serve as chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, respectively.
The letter comes on the heels of U.S. Senate hearings about Facebook’s tactics to attract young users and its practice of allowing its top profiles to skirt Facebook’s rules.
Last week, senators accused Facebook of concealing data about how its app impacts the mental health of young people who use it during a hearing on Capitol Hill following a series of investigative reports by the Wall Street Journal that found Facebook was aware of these issues and failed to stop them.
Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, told a Senate committee this week that Facebook should declare “moral bankruptcy” for failing to address the platform’s many ills, according to ABC News.
In the letter, Weiser and Shapiro argue that one way to break the cycle is to treat social media content in a similar fashion as political advertisements on television, which are subject to both regulatory oversight and transparency requirements.
“The importance of overseeing the actions of social media companies is not limited to the impact on kids and our democracy,” the letter reads. “The protection of consumer privacy and competition in the online world also would benefit from a regulatory agency with the necessary authority to take appropriate action, as would strengthening tools to limit disinformation and combat online hate speech that is fueling an increase in hate crimes nationwide.”