Big Tech Sees More State-Level Attacks on Content Moderation

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The association representing Big Tech says that free speech will be increasingly under attack from state legislatures that, after the midterms, will be controlled by one party.

Both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about edge provider content moderation, though they disagree on the problem and the solution.

Democrats say the issue is that not enough hate speech is being restricted while Republicans say that the problem is liberal-leaning social media sites censoring conservative speech in the name of restricting hate speech.

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The Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google, this week released a summery of what it called the state content moderation landscape (opens in new tab).

That included the observation that in only the past year, 250 bills to regulate content on online platforms have been introduced, including legislation in California, New York, Texas, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Utah, and South Carolina.

CCIA says that "many of the bills are unconstitutional, conflict with federal law including Section 230, and would place major barriers on digital services' abilities to restrict dangerous content on their platforms."

CCIA says many of the bills conflict with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that gives them protection from liability over third-party posts on their social media platforms, a protection national legislators from both parties have suggested needs to be modified or eliminated.

Federal privacy legislation could reduce the threat by preempting state efforts, but that is a long-shot in what will be a divided Congress in the New Year.

"As states convene legislative sessions in 2023, they’ll be doing so in a unique environment," says CCIA State Policy Director Khara Boender. "As a result of the midterm elections, a larger number of states will have one party controlling both chambers of the legislature in addition to the governor's seat. This, coupled with an increased interest in content moderation issues – on both sides of the aisle – leads us to believe this will be an increasingly hot topic." ■

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.