U.S. states bypass federal action with legislation to regulate tech, web giants

With Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other online leaders getting bigger, at least 38 states across the U.S. have pushed for legislation in the past six months to protect people’s data privacy in the Internet age, while restraining the influence of related companies in regulating people’s speech and stifling competition from their peers.

The New York Times reported that Florida’s new law, for example, if Facebook and Twitter delete news content from their own platforms, the affected media can be litigation; Arkansas allows state residents to be able to view the merchant’s contact information when shopping on Amazon; Virginia, following California, became the nation’s second state to introduce privacy legislation, the state’s residents can ask Google, Facebook shall not sell their personal data, but also can query the social media The state can ask Google and Facebook not to sell their personal data, and can also check what information social media have collected about themselves, and social media can be sued by the state if they don’t cooperate.

Analysis says states have been trying to check the influence of online giants for the past few years, but this wave of action is more aggressive than ever. According to the International Association of Privacy Professionals, states have introduced 27 bills on online privacy alone this year, far more than the two in 2018.

While only a handful of bills have been passed into effect, states have demonstrated a positive attitude, proving that the government has no intention of standing idly by, especially after the slow pace of the federal Congress, and have decided not to wait. The House and Senate have only passed one bill in recent years that would make social media more accountable and prohibit Internet users from posting sex trafficking material.

Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), believes that recent state actions have once again proven that the Internet is not a “vacuum” separate from society, and that congressional inaction has prompted states to take the initiative.

Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Experts say that because Internet users may have different rights depending on where they live, social media companies will have to modify the content of their products to ensure they are legal in different states. But Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank representing technology companies, argued that state legislation would not only inconvenience technology companies, but also confuse consumers.

Apple and Google declined to comment, while Amazon said its executives had issued a weblog in April questioning the confusion of state legislation and the lack of benefit to users. Facebook said it supported the federal legislation.