DENVER (CBS4) - From hate speech to cyber bullying, stories of social media run amok are all too common. State Sen. Kerry Donovan had heard them all, but her one-eyed kitten Mogwai is the one who really opened her eyes to just how insidious the online platforms have become.
"I'm going through that process, filling out the adoption paperwork, sending out emails about kittens and then all of the sudden in my social media ads I'm starting to get delivered ads about kitten food," Donovan explained.
If the digital world could figure out she needed kitten food, she thought, it could surely figure out how to take down hate speech and conspiracy theories.
"I think it's time we started figuring out how to hold these companies accountable for what their platforms are allowing to happen. The public deserves to know more about why they see what they see when they log into Facebook or Twitter, and the ways that their data is used even once they've logged off," she said.
She's introduced a bill to establish a first ever Digital Communications Commission where Coloradans could register complaints about everything from misuse of personal information to misinformation.
"Think of it much like our Public Utilities Commission, where it's a board that's the voice of the public to look out for the public good," Donovan said. "When folks have a problem with a platform, instead of just filling out a customer service form or an automated chat line they can come to the Colorado Digital Communications Commission and trust them as partners and advocates in standing up to big tech."
Under her bill, social media companies would have to register with the state or face a fine of $5,000 per day. The commission would hold hearings where it could subpoena witnesses, issue cease and desist orders and fine companies in violation of practices that undermine election integrity, for example, or disseminate fake news.
"I just can't stand idly by and throw my arms up and say I don't know what to do. Here's an idea let's see if we can't start working toward a solution because clearly bringing them before Congress and lecturing the leaders of these companies has done nothing," Donovan said. "Is the kitten ad going to be the end of our society? I don't think so. But that same process of how these different companies are able to infiltrate and control that data but then claim they can't control what's put on their platform, that juxtaposition just doesn't make sense to me."
Donovan says the commission will publish reports of research and investigations and brief the governor and other legislators.
"What this independent, nonpartisan commission won't do is decide what people can or can't say online. It's a venue for study, debate, and most importantly, support of Coloradans who get their news, share their lives, and connect with loved ones and strangers alike, online," Donovan explained.
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