More social media regulation coming in 2023, say members of Congress

The UK’s internet safety bill, which aims to regulate the internet, has been revised to remove a controversial but crucial measure.

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Days after Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill banning TikTok from government devices, lawmakers and advocates say they are looking to further regulate social media companies in the new year.

TikTok, a video sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, attracts more than 1 billion users every month. Lawmakers and FBI Director Christopher Wray have raised concerns that TikTok’s ownership structure could leave US user data vulnerable, as companies based in China could be forced by law to hand over user information.

TikTok has repeatedly stated that its US user data is not based on China, though these assurances have done little to assuage concerns.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., compared TikTok to “digital fentanyl” on Sunday, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believes the ban on the app should be expanded nationwide.

“It’s very addictive and destructive,” he said. “We’re seeing alarming data about the corrosive impact of constant social media use, particularly on young men and women here in America.”

Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen said on Sunday that since social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter and YouTube operate using similar algorithms, adding regulators should push for more transparency about how they operate as a first step.

Haugen said she thinks most people don’t know how far behind the U.S. is when it comes to social media regulation.

“It’s like we’re back in 1965, we don’t have seat belt laws yet,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Congress failed to pass many of the most aggressive tech-targeting bills in 2022, including antitrust legislation that would require app stores developed by Apple and Google to provide developers with more payment options and a measure imposing new guardrails to protect children online. Congress made more progress this year than in the past toward a compromise bill on national privacy standards, but it remains only a patchwork of state laws that determine how to protect consumer data.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said there is bipartisan support for many of these bills and many have made it to the Senate floor. But he said the tech lobby is so powerful that bills with “strong, bipartisan support” can collapse “within 24 hours.”

Klobuchar said Sunday that things will only change with social media companies when Americans decide they’ve had enough.

“We’re falling behind,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s time for 2023, let that be our resolution, to finally pass one of these bills.”

— CNBC’s Lauren Feiner contributed to this report

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