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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new report out Tuesday from a non-profit focused on online free expression is calling on federal lawmakers to mandate more transparency from tech companies rather than weakening the industry's liability shield.

Why it matters: Internet platforms could embrace policies like transparency requirements as a far more palatable alternative to eroding their immunity from lawsuits over user-posted content, which they say is vital to their existence.

Context: Lawmakers seeking to rein in platforms over a variety of concerns, including online child exploitation, are considering altering the longstanding shield, found in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Details: Ranking Digital Rights, which is affiliated with New America's Open Technology Institute, warns that changes to Section 230 will lead to online censorship as companies take an overly cautious approach to content.

What they're saying: The report recommends legislation that would require online platforms to:

  • publish their rules for what content and targeted advertising they allow;
  • issue reports on the content and ads they take down for breaking the rules; and
  • explain the algorithms that determine what ends up on someone's screen.

"This kind of transparency is not the end goal," Nathalie Maréchal, one of the authors, told Axios. "This kind of transparency is a necessary first step toward accountability."

What's next: Ranking Digital Rights plans to produce a second report later this spring on federal privacy legislation and improving tech company governance.

The bottom line: Changes to Section 230 are grabbing lawmakers' attention when it comes to regulating tech companies when they should be exploring other options, Maréchal argued.

  • "The governments have been focused on 'Let's force the companies to censor better'," she said. "No matter what companies do, they’re never going to be able to purge the internet of problematic content."

Go deeper

Updated 54 mins ago - Economy & Business

Hybrid work now dominates the knowledge economy

llustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, most knowledge workers are in hybrid work arrangements, partly remote and partly in-office, a new survey finds.

By the numbers: 58% said they now work this way, in a survey of around 10,000 knowledge workers from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, conducted last November by Future Forum, a research group backed by Slack.

Rents hit all-time high

Data: Zumper; Chart: Axios Visuals

The national median price of a one-bedroom rental apartment in January was up 12% year-over-year, to $1,374 — an all-time high, per Zumper, an online apartment rental site.

Why it matters: Inflation is taking a bigger bite out of people's paychecks these days not only in food and gasoline, but also in housing costs.

A pandemic victim: Ethical supply chains

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the last decade, global companies have put in place elaborate policies to ensure their suppliers protect worker safety and human rights. They're struggling to comply with those policies in the pandemic.

Driving the news: COVID-era disruptions have caused a spike in noncompliance with health and safety rules, according to new data from Qima, which audits supply chains.