An "eraser button"? Focused ideas could help bridle Big Tech


WASHINGTON (AP) — Break up Big Tech? How about shrinking the tech companies’ shield against liability in cases where the content they push to users causes harm? Or creating a new regulator to strictly oversee the industry?

Those ideas have captured official attention in the U.S., Europe, U.K. and Australia as controversy has enveloped Facebook — which on Thursday renamed itself Meta — Google, Amazon and other giants. Revelations of deep-seated problems surfaced by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, buttressed by a trove of internal company documents, have lent momentum to legislative and regulatory efforts.

But while regulators are still considering major moves such as breaking up some companies or limiting their acquisitions, the most realistic changes may be more tangible and less grandly ambitious. And also the kind of thing people might actually see popping up in their social feeds.

So lawmakers are getting creative as they introduce a slew of bills intended to take Big Tech down a peg. One bill proposes an “eraser button” that would let parents instantly delete all personal information collected from their children or teens. Another proposal bans specific features for kids under 16, such as video auto-play, push alerts, “like” buttons and follower counts. Also being floated is a prohibition against collecting personal data from anyone aged 13 to 15 without their consent. And a new digital “bill of rights” for minors that would similarly limit gathering of personal data from teens.

For online users of all ages, personal data is paramount. It’s at the heart of the social platforms' lucrative business model: harvesting data from their users and using it to sell personalized ads intended to pinpoint specific consumer groups. Data is the financial...

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