It’s Time For Lawmakers to Listen to Courts: Your Law Regulating Online Speech Will Harm Internet Users’ Free Speech Rights


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Despite a long history of courts ruling that government efforts to regulate speech online harm all internet users and interfere with their First Amendment rights, state and federal lawmakers continue to pass laws that do just that. Three separate rulings issued in the past week show that the results of these latest efforts are as predictable as they are avoidable: courts will strike down these laws.

The question is, why aren’t lawmakers listening? Instead of focusing on passing consumer privacy legislation that attacks the harmful business practices of the most dominant online services, lawmakers are seeking to censor the internet or block young people from it. Instead of passing laws that increase competition and help usher in a new era of online services and interoperability, lawmakers are trying to force social media platforms to host specific viewpoints. 

Recent decisions by the Supreme Court and two federal district courts underscore how these laws, in addition to being unconstitutional, are also bad policy. Whatever the good intentions of lawmakers, laws that censor the internet directly harm people’s ability to speak online, access others’ speech, remain anonymous, and preserve their privacy.

The consistent rulings by these courts should send a clear message to lawmakers considering internet legislation: it’s time to focus on advancing legislation that solves some of the most pressing privacy and competition problems online without censoring users’ speech. Those proposals have the benefit of both being constitutional and addressing many of the harms people—both adults and young people—experience online. Let’s take a look at each of the

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