Is Social Media Regulated?

You might think the obvious answer is “yes” when someone asks whether or not social media is regulated. And of course technically it is. But many others would roll their eyes and say “obviously not.” This is the result of many years of media attacks against social media platforms, some justified, some not. While social media creators and the platforms themselves of course have some level of responsibility to the content disseminated across these platforms, they can’t be held responsible for the level of perfection desired by the media and governments. There are billions of posts across many platforms everyday.

According to Tufts University, social media “refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.”

The Federal Communications Commission is one such entity that provides a level of oversight into Facebook and other social media platforms. Lawyers need to be kept apprised of ongoing FCC activities, investigations, and consumer alerts. They can do so through the FCC’s website.

Many proponents of regulation believe we should actually limit how much social media consumers digest each day to reduce the negative effects. The legal issue, of course, is whether or not such regulation would be in line with the First Amendment.

According to Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, some laws aiming to regulate social media are already under fire in the lower court systems and we can expect to see these legal challengers filter up to the higher courts in the next year or two. 

Jaffer said, “These laws impose extensive transparency requirements on major platforms. They give users all kinds of rights with respect to content that’s taken down or accounts that are taken down. The Florida law restricts platforms from deplatforming or shadow banning — which is not very well defined in the law — political candidates or media organizations. The Texas law prohibits viewpoint discrimination.”

Shadow banning means that a user or a user’s posts are blocked from being shown without that user being notified (at all and especially of the why and how). Although this type of ban can reduce dangerous “fake news” or lies (for example, those disseminated by a certain former president of some notoriety), it is the one most likely seen as a direct assault on the First Amendment. 

Technically, social media platforms are businesses — and therefore they are bound by the same laws and regulations as any other business. The problem is that these laws and regulations were not written with any respect toward the novelty of social media platforms. They were written for more common businesses like restaurants or retail establishments. Social media platforms are neither.

One of the biggest issues for clients of a legal firm is that a family member or someone involved in a case will post something they shouldn’t. Most lawyers will advise clients to refrain from using social media at all when litigation is ongoing. Visit website for additional information on this topic.