If Lawmakers Don’t Like Platforms’ Speech Rules, Here’s What They Can Do About It. Spoiler: The Options Aren’t Great

Explores common carriage proposals, FCC-style indecency or fairness proposals, and alternatives that would rely on user choice or competition rather than government-created rules for online speech.

September 9, 2020

What should platforms like Facebook or YouTube do when users post speech that is technically legal, but widely abhorred? In the U.S. that has included things like the horrific video of the 2019 massacre in Christchurch. What about harder calls – like posts that some people see as anti-immigrant hate speech, and others see as important political discourse?

Some of the biggest questions about potential new platform regulation today involve content of this sort: material that does not violate the law, but potentially does violate platforms’ private Terms of Service (TOS). This speech may be protected from government interference under the First Amendment or other human rights instruments around the world. But private platforms generally have discretion to take it down.