Politics and Government

TikTok puts eyes on Legislature as social media bills pile up

TikTok snow
Lawmakers have introduced proposals that touch on content, guardrails and other aspects of omnipresent social media.
Caleb Brennan 2020

There was no snappy video or goofy dance to mark it, but TikTok has formally arrived at Minnesota’s Capitol.

TikTok, Inc. U.S. brought aboard a handful of lobbyists this month, joining other social media giants with a team to keep tabs on state legislation that could affect their industry. The TikTok lobbyists are all associated with a Twin Cities-based law firm and a former legislator is one of them.

Minnesota isn’t among the states where a TikTok ban on government devices has been ordered. In fact, DFL Gov. Tim Walz told MPR News in an interview earlier this year he’s deferring to technological experts in the administration to advise him on such matters, including security risks cited by officials at other levels of government.

“I don't use them on my state phone, obviously,” Walz said. “But I have told people I have used TikTok. There are some wonderful Minnesota creators that are really fun — mostly dogs and mostly Minnesota tourist locations.”

Lawmakers have introduced proposals that touch on content, guardrails and other aspects of omnipresent social media.

One would prohibit those with more than 1 million accounts from using algorithms to steer specific content to people under 18. That bill has been dubbed the SOTA Kids ACT, short for Stop Online Targeting Against Kids Act. It has made it through a single House committee but none in the Senate.

Another bill would set aside nearly $3 million for a digital well-being grant program aimed at getting young people to be more selective online. The grants would be routed through the LiveMore ScreenLess organization. It awaits a hearing.

A third bill would establish new criminal penalties and civil recourse for people portrayed in lewd or manipulated images and videos that are actually fake.

The practice is known as “deep fakes.” They’ve been made easier by readily-available editing technology and can quickly spread on social media. The material can erroneously depict people in pornographic acts.

The bill, which has gained traction in the House and Senate, would allow people to pursue damages that include any profits from dissemination of the false material. 

The measure doesn’t attempt to interfere with federal law that gives digital media companies certain liability protection from content posted on their platforms.

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