Assemblymember Marc Levine, a Marin County Democrat, early this week introduced Assembly Bill 2182, which would create the California Data Protection Authority (CDPA) to regulate Californians' personal data on the Internet. All technology companies that serve Californians on the Internet would be regulated by CDPA if the bill becomes law, according to Levine.
If enacted, the legislation would form the CDPA to develop regulations that ban social media websites from conducting potentially harmful psychological experiments on users, create ways for Californians to erase certain profiles and personal information, and standardize online user agreements.
The bill's provision for banning harmful psychological experiments on social media platforms stems from a widely criticized Facebook study published in 2014, in which it refuted the notion that positive posts from friends negatively affected the user's emotions. Facebook apologized for the study, which the Guardian newspaper reported was conducted without the consent of nearly 700,000 users.
"We think users should know about software being manipulated by a company without consent," said Levine. "This is nefarious and evil toward consumers they monetize from using their data."
Levine introduced the bill amid growing sentiment from politicians, academics and even some tech leaders that large technology companies need to be more strictly regulated.
In November, three U.S. senators introduced a federal bill to require large online platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to maintain public files of political ads for transparency. All three companies did not respond to a request for comment.
Levine similarly introduced a bill last month to require all bot accounts on social media platforms to be identified and verified with a disclaimer, and to require all social media advertising purchases to be linked to verifiable humans.
At the federal level, regulating online content falls to either the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission, depending on the situation.
"The federal government has been useless and powerless," said Levine. "California has a role to play and can be a model for federal law."
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