Lawmakers’ flawed approach to social media content moderation

Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has amplified the already contentious debate over the appropriate scope of content moderation on social media sites. In a new insight, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy Jeffrey Westling explains the potential pitfalls of current Congressional proposals to regulate social media and online speech, as well as the risk of distorting forces of the market by the political jaw.

Key points:

  • Both sides of the political aisle dislike many of the content moderation processes and decisions made by social media companies; in response, lawmakers have come up with their own regulations on content moderation.
  • Republican regulatory proposals include transit requirements, which would require companies to transfer all information, regardless of content; The Democratic proposals, meanwhile, vary but mostly call for “algorithmic accountability,” which would likely involve reducing some Section 230 protections for social media websites.
  • Both of these proposals could violate the First Amendment’s protection of social media editorial judgment and lead to political outcomes that could harm the quality of moderation rather than improve it; furthermore, legislators’ threats of punitive legislation against social media companies are distorting their content moderation policies and further eroding trust in these systems.

Read the analysis

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