Constitutional Law for Social Media Platforms

SCENARIO: The social media platform Interwebs began growing in popularity among the 18-45 demographic over the past couple years. It attributed its success to an “anything goes” motto and did little to regulate its content. Interwebs was a strong supporter of First Amendment rights and was often in the news for pushing the boundary in available content. Users could create an Interwebs profile and post pictures videos or text to a feed that other users could see subscribe to and support via financial donations or payments. Advertisers often paid users with a high number of subscribers to promote their products or to complain about competitors products. Companies frequently created their own profiles to bring awareness to their brands. As Interwebs popularity grew the company decided to go public through an Initial Public Offering (I.P.O.) in which they sold shares of their company to the public for the first time. Now worth hundreds of millions of dollars and answering to thousands of shareholders the directors called a meeting to discuss the company stance on non-regulation of content. Recently the company had experienced some bad press (causing share prices to drop) because of misinformation sweeping the site. Specifically a few deep fake videos were attributed to altering the outcome of an election a number of fake “scientific reports” claiming that a certain diet could prevent tuberculosis caused an outbreak and lead to the deaths of dozens of people and one hate group gained a large following who claimed responsibility for several fatal shootings. The board of directors and the officers of the company discussed the balance of protecting the users freedom of speech against the dropping share prices. Several members of the management team asked whether they were supposed to institute a monitoring program or a censoring program but the board of directors refused to provide an answer. Rather they told the management team that they needed to take steps to restore share prices however that may be. Upon leaving the board meeting several of the executive managers met and discussed their concerns. Several government agencies including local governments had profiles on their site which they would use to inform communities about everything from weather related closings to administrative issues. Advertisers and companies using the site directed consumers to their products and Interwebs already allowed users to make payments and receive payments from other users. A few days later the CEO of Interwebs was called into a congressional hearing to discuss how the company planned on addressing the misinformation and to provide an opinion on whether the government should be able to step in to regulate social media platforms who fail to address misinformation (especially when it impacts elections healthcare and incites violence). Group Work/Role Play: Break into small groups of 3-5 people. Imagine your team contains individuals in upper management corporate policymakers and individuals responsible for coding algorithms at Interwebs. The CEO has come to your team to discuss how to reach a compromise between minimizing the presence of “misinformation” on the site (so that the bad press is minimized and the shareholders will be happy) and protecting speech that may be unpopular but nonetheless is necessary for a “free democracy.” Create a plan for how and when to regulate content and design parameters for the kind of speech that will be regulated. Then determine whether or not your policies could subject your company to lawsuits by users. SHORT ANSWER ESSAY: Answer the following question in 5- 10 sentences. If the government decides to step in and regulate social media platforms under the Commerce Clause can that power extend to regulating the content of speech on the platform such that speech deemed to be hateful a danger to public health or threating to the credibility of the election cycle be censored? ETHICS QUESTION: Interwebs discovers that some users are using their apps payment system to conduct criminal enterprises such as selling drugs paying for prostitution and paying hit-men-for-hire. The transactions always appear legitimate in nature however recent high-profile criminal convictions led to the discovery of these illicit transactions. Interwebs has taken steps to ensure anyone receiving or sending payments must enter in a social security number or tax identification number so that the transactions can be tied back to an individual or company. However most of these criminals have been able to defraud the security check through entering false information or at times legitimate numbers that conceal the true nature of the business. Should Interwebs be responsible for actively seeking out criminal activity on their app and reporting it to authorities (thus using a large amount of the companys financial resources) or should it remain passive and invest their time and money growing the app and the market? Requirements: 1 page

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