States Around the US Are Looking To Regulate Social Media’s Impact on Free Speech

States Around the US Are Looking To Regulate Social Media's Impact on Free Speech

Social Media Regulation – Look What’s Happening Nationwide!

( – The debate around free speech on social media has been raging for quite some time. It came under increased scrutiny after Twitter and Facebook banned former President Donald Trump from their platforms. Over the past year, lawmakers have brought more than 100 bills to regulate social media, but it’s largely been a losing battle. In fact, lawmakers signed only three bills into law, yet federal courts have deemed two of them unconstitutional.

Conservative Censorship Is a Real Issue

The main issue that has led lawmakers in 34 states to enact legislation was the censorship of conservative voices on social media platforms. Conservatives want to prevent the platforms from restricting content and banning political candidates.

Florida and Texas successfully passed laws holding Big Tech responsible for censoring Conservatives. However, federal courts have prevented the statutes from actually going into effect. In May, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Florida’s statute was largely unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court blocked Texas’ law while it’s undergoing an appeal in a lower court.

Democrats Join the Fray

While Democratic states also have lawmakers pushing for reform, the end goal is vastly different. Rather than reinstate those censored or do away with censorship altogether, the Democrats want to establish firm policies for reporting issues like hate speech, misinformation, and violent content.

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has successfully signed a bill into law: S4511. Barring any legal action, the measure goes into effect in December and will require social media companies to address hateful conduct by providing users with mechanisms to report it. In addition, the platforms must communicate with those who report such speech. If they don’t, they face a daily fine of up to $1,000.

Bipartisan Bills

While the two parties are seeking different ends with their goals, there are also other issues arising in these proposals from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, such as

  • Protecting children from social media addiction
  • Imposing transparency requirements

Lawmakers in Minnesota and California are aggressively seeking action regarding child addiction. California’s AB 2408, which permits parents to sue social media companies if they knowingly harm children under 18, addresses addiction directly. It advanced through a State Senate committee last month, and legislators expect a vote in August.

Additionally, Tennessee, New York, California, and Mississippi lawmakers have introduced legislation demanding transparency reports that clearly state the platforms’ content moderation decisions.

State vs. Federal Regulation

When states create legislation for social media outlets, it complicates the situation for the whole nation. Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor for the US Naval Academy, says there cannot be “state-by-state internet.” He asked people to imagine 50 states, each with different content moderation regulations, saying it would be a “complete disaster.”

Right now, there are no laws in effect, but it’s clear the push for free speech in electronic “town squares” is far from over. While all parties fight for their vested interests, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out as they wind their way through the legal system.

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