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Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has run a tech-centered campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, positioning his Universal Basic Income proposal as a solution to rapid technological change and increasing automation. On Thursday, he released a broad plan to constrain the power tech companies supposedly wield over the American economy and society at large.
"Digital giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple have scale and power that renders them more quasi-sovereign states than conventional companies," the plan reads. "They're making decisions on rights that government usually makes, like speech and safety."
Yang has now joined the growing cacophony of Democrats and Republicans who wish to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act; the landmark legislation protects social media companies from facing certain liabilities for third-party content posted by users online. As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, it's essentially "the Internet's First Amendment."
The algorithms developed by tech companies are the root of the problem, Yang says, as they "push negative, polarizing, and false content to maximize engagement."
That's true, to an extent. Just like with any company or industry, social media firms are incentivized to keep consumers hooked as long as possible. But it's also true that social media does more to boost already popular content than it does to amplify content nobody likes or wants to engage with. And in an age of polarization, it appears that negative content can be quite popular.
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