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Proposal Would Force Data Interoperability Across Social Platforms

Five U.S. senators have thrown their support behind a bill that would force certain social media companies to implement a seamless process for visitors to access, save and transfer their data between competing digital platforms.

A digital illustration of characters using social media apps on a variety of electronic devices.
Are larger social media platforms gatekeeping user data to stifle competition?

Some U.S. senators believe this is the case and have proposed what they think is a viable solution — a bill that would essentially require social media platforms with over 100 million monthly users to make user data portable and interoperable with other platforms. The proposal would also allow users to designate a third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings.

This week, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., reintroduced the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Actwith the support of Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

“Interoperability and portability are powerful tools to promote innovative new companies and limit anti-competitive behaviors,” the group said in a statement. 

According to a media release, the goal of the ACCESS Act is to even the digital playing field by promoting competition in the social networking arena, while at the same time giving consumers more control over their data by requiring large communication platforms to:

  • Make their services interoperable with competing communication platforms, so users can experience a more open and diverse online environment.
  • Allow users to effortlessly port their data in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format, so users can manage and transfer their data as they see fit.
  • Provide users access to custodial services involving managing their account settings, content and online interactions. These custodians would be required to act in the user's best interests through a strong duty of care.
“Consumers are currently locked into the social media platforms that they use, unable to move to a different platform for fear of losing years’ worth of data and interactions,” the senators wrote. “By making it easier for social media users to easily move their data or to continue to communicate with their friends after switching platforms, startups will be able to compete on equal terms with the biggest social media companies. This bill will create long-overdue requirements that will boost competition and give consumers more power.”

The ACCESS Act, originally introduced in 2019, is not Warner’s first attempt to address social media regulation. He also proposed several social media regulatory bills earlier this year that include: the RESTRICT Act, which would require the secretary of commerce to establish procedures to identify and mitigate transactions involving information and communications technology products; the SAFE TECH Act, which would amend Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 to make social media companies liable for cyber stalking, online harassment and discrimination that occur on their platforms; and the Kids Online Safety Actwhich requires social media platforms to by default enable a range of protections against addictive design and algorithmic recommendations on digital communication platforms.

With emerging social media platforms like Meta's Threads app gaining traction in the space, the demand for interoperability, data portability and security in digital networking will likely continue to be a focus for lawmakers.