Last year, lawmakers in dozens of states introduced bills to block companies from enforcing their terms of service related to removing content on their platforms. It was a knee-jerk reaction by conservative lawmakers seeking to punish digital services for taking action against former President Trump’s accounts for breaching the Terms of Service on Jan. 6. Opponents have warned that the bills would make it harder for companies to remove inappropriate, misleading or even dangerous information, and violate the platforms’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to host all user-generated content. , regardless of the risks that this content presented. . Despite the warnings, policymakers in Florida and Texas passed laws and both states are now wasting taxpayers’ money fighting – and losing – legal battles on the constitutionality of bills.
This year, a similar situation is playing out in Minnesota, where, in an effort to protect children online, lawmakers are lobbying with legislation this they were warned could actually do the exact opposite. A bipartisan-sponsored bill to outlaw the application of algorithms used to select content to share with users under 18 is fast making its way through the Minnesota legislature. While almost all Americans may agree that it is absolutely essential that companies take additional measures to protect young people online, the state’s approach is short-sighted in that it aims to prevent companies from using the very tools on which they matter to keep their users safe.
As state lawmakers introduce proposals to crack down on so-called “big tech,” behind-the-scenes major digital services are investing millions of dollars each year in the ongoing research, development, and deployment of tools to keep their users out of harm’s way. For example, Twitter recently announcement plans to expand its “Safety Mode” feature, which will provide users with enhanced mechanisms to combat harassment and harmful content. Last month, Instagram spear its “Family Center”, a new tool to offer parents more supervision and control over their children’s accounts. just snap announcement new policies to protect users from receiving anonymous messages and implemented age restrictions to protect younger users. All of these services are made possible by the efficient use of algorithms.
If there was any doubt before the pandemic, there is no doubt now that the internet is fundamental to the modern economy. It is crucial that digital services continue to dedicate resources to developing mechanisms to protect vulnerable users. Perhaps more importantly, the tools tech companies are creating today pioneering technology and know-how to companies of the future. If passed into law, this bill would not only remove the mechanisms that digital services currently use to keep users safe, but also discourage major tech companies from investing in ongoing research to combat emerging online threats. in the years to come.
As we learned in Florida and Texas, acting on impulse is not the right answer and will likely lead to unintended consequences. It’s time for state lawmakers to put an end to knee-jerk legislation and work alongside stakeholders and industry experts to identify practical solutions to protect users online.