New York Gov. Kathy Hochul turned a few heads when she said, during a speech regarding new gun safety laws:
“And in the state of New York we are now requiring social media networks to monitor and report hateful conduct on their platforms.”
Say what? Require a social media company to “report” “hateful conduct?”
Report to whom? And what, exactly, is “hateful conduct?”
From the bill jacket, we’ll start with the “definition” of hateful conduct:
Specifically, this legislation defines hateful conduct to mean the use of a social media network to vilify, humiliate, or incite violence against a group, or a class of persons on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Vilify? Humiliate? According to who? Such vague language is the hallmark of legislation struck down on First Amendment grounds. So this is not an auspicious start.
But on reading it I saw that all the law actually required, contrary to what the Governor said, is that there must be an easily accessible mechanism for a user to report the issue to the social media site owner. Which, as far as I know, all of them already have.
There is no mechanism within that new statute for Facebook or Twitter to report to the government, or report to anyone else for that matter.
It also requires the social media company have a policy in place to deal with the situation. But the law does not (and could not on First Amendment grounds) tell the social media network how to handle those complaints.
So the network could have a policy of “Our company deals with these complaints on a case by case basis, and does so totally and unapologetically on whim.” Hey, it’s a policy, isn’t it?
In essence, the law does nothing.
Here’s the Governor’s brief (and erroneous) remarks on the subject:
Given the frequency of “hateful conduct” observed on social media I suspect that there are not enough employees in the NY state system to keep up with the workload anyway.
Could you imagine if a social media company was forced to “report” hateful conduct to the government?
While ½ of me says it would be unconstitutional, the other 1/2 says “Here’s exactly what you wanted…go have fun.”