Sen. Mark Warner files bill aimed at promoting social media competition

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., talks to reporters in 2019 at a breakfast in Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. (Michael Bonfigli/ Christian Science Monitor)

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., on Tuesday rolled out bipartisan legislation intended to make it easier for social media users to switch services without losing their data and communicate across platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to a news release.

Warner introduced the bill – the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act – in conjunction with Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

“Social media has enormous benefits. But, as we’ve seen, the tremendous dominance of a handful of large platforms also has major downsides – including few options for consumers who want to use social media to connect with friends, store their photos or just watch cat videos, but who face a marketplace with just a few major players and little in the way of real competition,” Warner said in a prepared statement.

In a Twitter thread explaining the bill, Warner – a former venture capitalist who made his fortune in the cell phone industry – compared it to prior legislation that forced phone companies to let consumers keep their numbers when they switched providers.

“By requiring interoperability for major platforms, we can give consumers greater choice over how they access online services like social media, while also preventing companies from using their APIs & terms of service as weapons to shut down potential competitors or extract rents,” Warner said.

The legislation focuses on three areas: data portability, platform interoperability and delegability, which Warner explained as “the idea that consumers should be able to allow a third-party service to manage their privacy settings across multiple platforms.”

In a statement to CNBC, Facebook’s Vice President of U.S. Public Policy Kevin Martin said the company believes “people should be able to move their data from one service or app to another.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Sen. Warner and his colleagues, the Data Transfer Project and others on this important principle.”