Bipartisan Bill Aims to Make It Easier to Log Off Facebook Forever

Sen. Josh Hawley is one of the sponsors of the bill
Sen. Josh Hawley is one of the sponsors of the bill
Photo: AP

Three senators introduced a bill on Tuesday that aims to make it easier for people to get off large social media networks like Facebook and YouTube.

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The bipartisan legislation sponsored by Republican Senator Josh Hawley and Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Mark Warner would mandate that these platforms allow their customers to easily pull their data and move it to another site.

The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act affects sites that have more than 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. That would mean the legislation would affect Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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The bill is meant to stimulate competition in the market by making data on the social media juggernauts sites more interoperable with other platforms built by small companies. In other words, it wants to give the next Ello a fighting chance at gaining traction. Having to move over all your information to a new platform can be a big hurdle when it comes time to attempt a friend migration on a social network—not to mention the fact that your data belongs to you and should be easily accessible.

“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,” said Senator Warner, in a statement.

Hawley said in a statement, “This bill creates long-overdue requirements that will boost competition and give consumers the power to move their data from one service to another.”

In June Warner and Hawley also teamed up on the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act that would require any platform with more than 100 million active monthly users to disclose what data it is collecting and how it is using that data. The bill would also make the companies provide assessments of that data’s value and allow users to delete their data.

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Hawley is one of Capitol Hill’s most outspoken critics of Big Tech’s data collection practices, but he often spreads misinformation—like when he demanded Twitter allow a third-party audit after he falsely accused the platform of suspending the account for the anti-abortion film Unplanned. He also doesn’t understand the law that holds the whole internet together, or at least pretends that he doesn’t.

But sometimes the conservative Senator gets on board with legislation that is actually beneficial for American consumers–like the ACCESS Act. It’s nice to see policymakers addressing the various ways that the Big Tech companies are becoming gatekeepers that use data collection to blocking competition and hinder the existence of an open internet.

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Former senior reporter at Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

This is a good idea. I’d love to leave Facebook, but it has over a decade of my files and sunk cost fallacy tells me I might as well stay put. If I could up and move everything it wouldn’t be an issue. And presumably, if that were an option, there would be more places to which to move.

Catch is, what does it mean to download all your data from one of these sites? Is it a giant zip archive with common video, image, and text files? Or is it some proprietary blob that can only be accessed with a propriety reader that won’t be given to competitors, making it just as impossible to move? Those are the real implementation questions. And that’s not even getting into what it means to download a timeline or all your comments or media shares.

Again, good idea, but the practicality lies in its execution.