Last week, President Trump signed an Executive Order intended to pave the way for regulation of speech on social media and reinterpreting a provision of law that protects websites from liability for third-party speech. The new executive order is the culmination of efforts by politicians and activists on both the right and the left to “rein in” powerful social media companies by regulating their content.
In a new paper titled “The Case Against Regulating Social Media: Reaffirming Congress’ Duty to Protect Online Bias, ‘Harmful Content,’ and Dissident Speech from the Administrative State,” Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews makes the case that not only is government regulation of speech unconstitutional, the proposed reinterpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act would actually empower the social media giants by making it more difficult for new competitors to emerge.
“Some technology sector leaders – whose enterprises have benefited greatly from free expression – are joining policy makers and pressure groups in pursuing the imposition of online content and speech standards that would seriously burden their emerging competitors,” said Crews.
Crews also makes the case that regulating social media companies would greatly and illegitimately expand the power of the government.
“Blocking or compelling speech in reaction to governmental pressure would not only violate the Constitution’s First Amendment — it would require immense expansion of constitutionally dubious administrative agencies. With expanded powers, those agencies would either enforce government-sanctioned deplatforming or coerce platforms into carrying any message,” warned Crews. “The Internet and any future communications platforms need protection from both the bans on speech sought by the left and the forced conservative ‘ride-along’ speech sought by the right.”
Recommendations in the paper include:
- The vast energy expended on accusing purveyors of information, either on mainstream or social media, of bias or of inadequate removal of “harmful” content should be redirected toward the development of tools that empower users to better customize the content they choose to access.
- Congress should acknowledge the inevitable presence of bias, protect competition in speech, and defend the conditions that would allow future platforms and protocols to emerge in the service of the public.
- Policy makers must avoid creating an environment in which Internet giants benefit from protective regulation that prevents the emergence of new competitors.
Read the report: The Case Against Social Media Regulation
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