Content media

Content moderation under Musk won’t trigger legal reform

Elon Musk is shaking up the operations of social media giant Twitter. While it may face legal and business challenges, it is unlikely to face a backlash in Congress through regulatory reform that could open up Twitter and other social media platforms to lawsuits for the publications of their users.

Twitter closed its offices on Friday as employee layoffs began, according to information from Reuters. The action followed Musk’s firing of Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and other top executives last week after the $44 billion deal was struck. Musk’s actions have created turmoil within the company as employees took to Twitter regarding the recent layoffs.

“Looks like I’m unemployed y’all,” wrote Simon Balmain, who had been senior community manager at Twitter since November 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile. “I just remotely logged out of my work laptop and removed it from Slack. … So sad it ended like this.”

A handful of employees sued Musk in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday, alleging they weren’t given adequate notice before losing their jobs.

That’s not the only legal or business issue Musk faces, but experts don’t think those challenges will be enough to change the laws governing social media platforms.

Content moderation

Along with Musk’s takeover, Twitter’s future content moderation policies are among the most important concerns for users and advertisers.

Musk tweeted On Oct. 28, the company will form a content moderation board with “widely diverse viewpoints” and won’t change Twitter’s policies until after the panel meets. He also assured advertisers of his intention to create a respected advertising platform.

Still, that hasn’t satisfied some advertisers, as companies including General Mills, Audi, Pfizer and Volkswagen suspended advertising on the platform this week, according to reports.

Since the 2016 U.S. election and the proliferation of misinformation on social media platforms, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued spread of medical misinformation, policymakers have debated Section 230 reform. of the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies from liability for content posted on their platforms.

However, Musk’s takeover of Twitter is unlikely to serve as a catalyst for real Section 230 reform, said Kristian Stout, director of innovation policy at the International Center for Law and Economics.

It’s really hard to find an alternative to Article 230 that wouldn’t create huge problems for the platforms.

Gautam HansAssociate Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School

Section 230 “has on the whole provided the necessary legal framework for user-generated content to exist,” Stout said.

Content moderation is a technically difficult task. Algorithms can identify words or phrases that violate the guidelines, but often not the context around the word or phrase. These content moderation challenges are part of the reason Section 230 broadly grants immunity to platforms, said Gautam Hans, clinical associate professor of law at Cornell Law School.

“It’s really hard to find an alternative to Section 230 that wouldn’t create huge problems for rigs,” Hans said.

Although there is debate around reforming Section 230, Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, doesn’t expect policymakers to agree on reforming Section 230 any time soon. The “federal government is pretty split on how they want section 230 to be interpreted,” he said.

Instead, he noted that the most immediate effect on content moderation policies could come from states, particularly the new Texas state law upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the fifth circuit. The law prohibits social media platforms from removing content based on users’ political beliefs and will likely end up in the Supreme Court.

“This is a serious legal challenge that all social media platforms could face,” Furchtgott-Roth said.

Twitter acquisition could fall under SEC scrutiny

The process by which Musk acquired Twitter could trigger an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Furchtgott-Roth said.

Furchtgott-Roth said there were disclosure issues when Musk acquired the 10% threshold to buy the company. Musk ended up selling shares of his company Tesla as part of his effort to acquire Twitter.

The SEC was already paying attention to the deal, especially after Musk threatened to pull out of spam accounts earlier this year.

“There may be securities law issues that Twitter faces,” Furchtgott-Roth said.

User billing

Musk also announced plans to charge Twitter users $8 per month to become verified users and receive the blue check on their accounts.

Platforms interested in better content moderation should find ways to discourage spam accounts and user accounts that remain anonymous to platform operators, which Stout says would make those users responsible for the content. that they share on the platform.

“I think paying a little, even $1, to access these platforms will have an interesting and positive effect on the chat ecosystem itself,” Stout said.

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Before joining TechTarget, she was a generalist journalist for the Wilmington StarNews and crime and education reporter Wabash Plain Dealer.