- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bipartisan social media legislation proposed Tuesday in the Senate aims to increase competition among companies by ensuring users can move their data from one platform to another.

Language included in the proposed Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act, or ACCESS Act, requires large communications platforms to have “interoperable interfaces” that allow users to transfer to their data between competing providers.

“Social media has enormous benefits. But, as we’ve seen, the tremendous dominance of a handful of large platforms also has major downsides — including few options for consumers who want to use social media to connect with friends, store their photos or just watch cat videos, but who face a marketplace with just a few major players and little in the way of real competition,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

“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,” Mr. Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Democratic caucus, said in a statement.

The ACCESS Act current has co-sponsors on each side of the aisle — Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat — giving it bipartisan backing from the start amid social media companies facing scrutiny on Capitol Hill from all angles.



“Your data is your property. Period. Consumers should have the flexibility to choose new online platforms without artificial barriers to entry,” Mr. Hawley said.

Mr. Blumenthal agreed.

“The bipartisan ACCESS Act would empower consumers to finally stand up to Big Tech and move their data to services that respect their rights,” he said.

The bill was introduced the same day it was announced that attorneys general for 47 states and U.S. territories will participate in an antitrust probe of Facebook being led by New York state’s top prosecutor.

“As we continue our investigation, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions stifled competition and put users at risk,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

More recently, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive officer, was met with related concerns while appearing Wednesday in front of House Financial Services Committee during a hearing held mainly about his company plans to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra.

“You have opened up a serious discussion about whether Facebook should be broken up,” Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat and the chairwoman of the committee, told Mr. Zuckerberg during the hearing.

Mr. Zuckerberg, 35, has previously rejected calls to regulate Facebook, which currently boasts more than 2 billion daily active users between its several apps and services.

“I understand the concerns that people have about how tech platforms have centralized power,” he said at an event last week at Georgetown University. “But I actually believe the much bigger story is how much these platforms have decentralized power by putting it directly into people’s hands.”

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