In a column in the Washington Post, Nathaniel Persily, a professor of law at Stanford Law School and director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, has proposed draft legislation that he calls the “Platform Transparency and Accountability Act.”
The proposed legislation would authorize “the Federal Trade Commission to set mandatory data and information sharing requirements” for platforms to share data with researchers at universities. It would establish a “Platform Transparency and Accountability Division” within the FTC that would administer access to data, including approving research projects, and that would produce a report to Congress on its activities. It would be authorized to create an advisory board including representatives from industry and the university research community. And, it would create penalties for researchers and companies that violate the Act’s standards and requirements.Persily-proposed-legislation-10-5-21.docx
Persily notes he was inspired to write the draft in part because of his experience with Social Science One, a consortium shepherded by Facebook that sought to create a mechanism to share data from social media firms with researchers, which he left in October 2020.
“After years of frustration — frustration also felt by many Facebook employees trying to do the right thing — I resigned last year as co-chair of an outside effort to try to get the company to share more data with researchers,” he wrote in the Post.
Facebook recently admitted that it made a significant mistake in the data it provided to more than 100 researchers through the Social Science One consortium.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.