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Content Moderation

03/18/2022

Proposed law in Minnesota would ban algorithms to protect the children

Jennifer Huddleston
Jennifer Huddleston Policy Counsel

Tech industry lobbying group NetChoice told Minnesota lawmakers that the bill is “well-intentioned” but “undermines parental choice, removes the access to beneficial technologies from young people, and is a clear violation of the First Amendment.” NetChoice members include Facebook, Google, TikTok, Twitter, and other tech companies.

NetChoice argued that the First Amendment case against the bill is strong, writing:

In Sorrell v. IMS, the Supreme Court ruled that information is speech and that a Vermont law could not prohibit the creation and dissemination of information including the selling of data to a database. Even more relevant here, multiple court cases have held that the distribution of speech, including by algorithms such as those used by search engines, are protected by the First Amendment. This proposal would result in the government restraining the distribution of speech by platforms and Minnesotans access to information. Thus, HF 3724 will be deemed by courts as a violation of the First Amendment.

NetChoice further argued that the bill’s impact would go well beyond sites like Facebook and YouTube. On the book review site GoodReads, “young people would be unable to receive recommendations done by algorithms that guide them to books based on their previous interests and reviews by similar readers,” the group said.

The bill’s broad definition of social media could also prevent newspapers from “recommend[ing] further related news stories by algorithm to a student doing research if comments are attached,” NetChoice said. The bill defines “social media platform” as “an electronic medium, including a browser-based or application-based interactive computer service, telephone network, or data network, that allows users to create, share, and view user-created content.”

The bill would force online platforms to “collect more information about users under 18″ because “a company would have to know the age of the user and that they were located in Minnesota to then disable any algorithmic recommendations. In order to do so, information that might not otherwise be collected regarding age and location would be needed,” NetChoice said.

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