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Social media Amid growing bipartisan agreement that increased regulation of social media platforms and their content moderation policies is needed, the path forward remains murky. Should Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act be discarded or strengthened? Should companies be broken up using antitrust laws? Should government set speech rules for the web? Should users decide them? Or should there be no rules at all?
There is no shortage of solutions being put forth to solve the challenge of social media censorship. The problem is that without a better understanding of how social platforms invisibly shape the public square of democracy today, we don’t know which of these possible solutions might have the greatest impact. In short, to fix social media, we first need a better understanding of its ills: Section 230 must be amended to legislate social platform transparency.
A new RealClearFoundation report, “ Transparency Is the First Step Toward Addressing Social Media Censorship ,” outlines the public data sets we need to usher in transparency and better understand the challenges we face.
Much as a doctor cannot prescribe a treatment plan for a patient without first diagnosing the specific ailments from which they suffer, meaningful reform of social censorship requires data-driven interventions. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warned last week that “as long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its [work] from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable.” The problem, as Haugen notes, is that we lack the most basic data on how social platforms function and their impact on society to be able to understand how we might best regulate them.
How did we get here?
Almost since America’s founding, the nation has wrestled with what Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan once called the “ intractable ” problem of defining what kinds of speech should be permitted and which should be banned. Early efforts focused on regulating speakers themselves, shifting over time to gatekeepers, allowing citizens freedom to express their views under the First Amendment but limiting the distribution of undesirable views to the public. Censorship rules reflecting local morals gave way to centralized national rules, which […]
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