The TLDR Act: Mandated Infrastructure for a Consumer-Centric and Transparent Internet

Anna Lenhart is a Policy Fellow at the Institute for Data Democracy and Politics at The George Washington University. Previously she served as a Technology Policy Advisor in the US House of Representatives. Shutterstock Today, Representative Lori Trahan (D-MA), Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) reintroduced the Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability (TLDR) Act. Put simply, the bill requires that commercial websites and mobile apps create summary terms-of-service statements. Many will read the coverage of TLDR and think,“great bill title, but all this does is set up a notice and consent regime for consumers.” As someone who advised on an earlier version of this bill while serving as an aide to Rep. Trahan, I want to challenge the tech policy community to read a bit closer and consider the implications beyond data transparency, including algorithm transparency and insights for online safety and research. First, TLDR focuses on terms-of-service readability. This includes mandating a summary statement for privacy policies, clauses related to the right to attribution for content creators (moral rights) and class action waivers – anything a user must “agree” to before using a service. Additionally, with the enactment of Article 14 in the EU Digital Services Act, terms-of-service may begin to include more details that consumers, advocates and lawmakers care about: content moderation policies, details regarding how complaints are handled and protections websites have in place for children. This is pertinent information but only if it can be easily located, parsed and scraped. That is…The TLDR Act: Mandated Infrastructure for a Consumer-Centric and Transparent Internet