Biden calls on Congress to toughen transparency requirements for social media companies

White House launches new initiative to combat hate-motivated violence in the US

US President Joe Biden speaks during the United We Stand event to counter the effects of hate-fuelled violence. Bloomberg
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US President Joe Biden on Thursday called on Congress to get rid of the special immunity enjoyed by social media companies and impose stronger transparency policies on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The push is part of the White House's new initiative to combat hate-motivated violence in the US, which Mr Biden marked with an event entitled “United We Stand”.

“We're going to use every federal resource available to help communities counter hate-fuelled violence, build resilience and foster greater national unity,” Mr Biden said.

“I'm calling on Congress to do its part … hold social media platforms accountable for spreading hate-fuelled violence.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill into law that aims to force social media companies to be more transparent.

The California law requires tech companies to file semi-annual reports with the state’s attorney general that publicly disclose their content moderation policies regarding hate speech, misinformation and extremism.

But the bill is not without its detractors, with critics saying it has worrying implications for free speech protections.

Scrutiny in the US has grown over the role of social media in fomenting extremism and violence following the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, where far-right supporters of former president Donald Trump sought to overturn the presidential election results.

And top US officials told the Senate last year that the greatest domestic threat facing the US came not from foreign terrorist groups but from what they called “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists”, The New York Times reported.

“Our own intelligence agencies in the United States of America have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to our homeland today,” Mr Biden said during Thursday's event, where he appeared alongside Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed during a 2017 counter-protest against a white supremacist rally in Virginia.

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In 2020 alone, more than 10,000 people in the US reported being victims of hate crimes due to their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion or disability, the FBI’s annual hate crime statistics report showed. This is the highest number reported in 12 years.

“We must stand together — students, parents, educators, faith leaders, business leaders and law enforcement officials,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at an earlier event marking the initiative.

“And we must clearly say that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us.

“We are at an inflection point in our history and, indeed, in our democracy.”

Mr Biden this month condemned “Maga Republicans”, or Republicans affiliated with Mr Trump, warning they posed a threat to democracy.

A growing number of Trump-aligned Republicans have run for key positions at the local, state and national level.

Updated: September 15, 2022, 10:44 PM