WASHINGTON—Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) today introduced the “Platform Transparency and Accountability Act.” The bill is designed to support research into the impact of digital communication platforms on society by providing privacy-protective pathways for independent research on data held by large internet companies. Last December, the bipartisan group of legislators released a discussion bill to gather input and feedback from stakeholders before the bill’s formal introduction.

The following can be attributed to Ramya Krishnan, staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“Today, journalists and researchers who study the platforms do so under the shadow of serious legal liability, and the public suffers for it. The Platform Transparency and Accountability Act would address this problem by establishing a safe harbor for privacy-preserving research that is in the public interest. The bill would take an important step towards increasing our collective understanding of the platforms and their impact on democracy and civic life.”

Since 2018, the Knight Institute has been advocating for a “safe harbor” for public-interest research and journalism focused on social media platforms. In August of that year, the Institute sent a public letter to Facebook urging the company to amend its terms of service to permit public-interest investigations that respect user privacy. In January 2022, the Institute published a white paper proposing that Congress enact a legislative safe harbor that would protect important research and journalism that respects user privacy and the integrity of the platforms. The paper included draft language for the proposal that has been incorporated into the bill. 

Read more about the Institute’s ongoing work to lift restrictions on research and journalism on social media platforms here. 

Read today’s bill here.

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, [email protected]