Readout of White House Listening Session on Tech Platform Accountability – The White House

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Although tech platforms can help keep us connected, create a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and open up new opportunities for bringing products and services to market, they can also divide us and wreak serious real-world harms. The rise of tech platforms has introduced new and difficult challenges, from the tragic acts of violence linked to toxic online cultures, to deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, to basic rights of Americans and communities worldwide suffering from the rise of tech platforms big and small.

Today, the White House convened a listening session with experts and practitioners on the harms that tech platforms cause and the need for greater accountability. In the meeting, experts and practitioners identified concerns in six key areas: competition; privacy; youth mental health; misinformation and disinformation; illegal and abusive conduct, including sexual exploitation; and algorithmic discrimination and lack of transparency.

One participant explained the effects of anti-competitive conduct by large platforms on small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs, including restrictions that large platforms place on how their products operate and potential innovation. Another participant highlighted that large platforms can use their market power to engage in rent-seeking, which can influence consumer prices.

Several participants raised concerns about the rampant collection of vast troves of personal data by tech platforms. Some experts tied this to problems of misinformation and disinformation on platforms, explaining that social media platforms maximize “user engagement” for profit by using personal data to display content tailored to keep users’ attention—content that is often sensational, extreme, and polarizing. Other participants sounded the alarm about risks for reproductive rights and individual safety associated with companies collecting sensitive personal information, from where their users are physically located to their medical histories and choices. Another participant explained why mere self-help technological protections for privacy are insufficient. And participants highlighted the risks to public safety that can stem from information recommended by platforms that promotes radicalization, mobilization, and incitement to violence.

Multiple experts explained that technology now plays a central role in access to critical opportunities like job openings, home sales, and credit offers, but that too often companies’ algorithms display these opportunities unequally or discriminatorily target some communities with predatory products. The experts also explained that that lack of transparency means that the algorithms cannot be scrutinized by anyone outside the platforms themselves, creating a barrier to meaningful accountability.

One expert explained the risks of social media use for the health and wellbeing of young people, explaining that while for some, technology provides benefits of social connection, there are also significant adverse clinical effects of prolonged social media use on many children and teens’ mental health, as well as concerns about the amount of data collected from apps used by children, and the need for better guardrails to protect children’s privacy and prevent addictive use and exposure to detrimental content. Experts also highlighted the magnitude of illegal and abusive conduct hosted or disseminated by platforms, but for which they are currently shielded from being held liable and lack adequate incentive to reasonably address, such as child sexual exploitation, cyberstalking, and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images of adults.

The White House officials closed the meeting by thanking the experts and practitioners for sharing their concerns. They explained that the Administration will continue to work to address the harms caused by a lack of sufficient accountability for technology platforms. They further stated that they will continue working with Congress and stakeholders to make bipartisan progress on these issues, and that President Biden has long called for fundamental legislative reforms to address these issues.

Attendees at today’s meeting included:

Principles for Enhancing Competition and Tech Platform Accountability
With the event, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the following core principles for reform:
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The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

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