What is a “social media web site”?

The Kentucky legislature is considering a bill to require “social media web sites” to not “censor” content which is political or religious.

It is immediately evident, from the text included in these screenshots, that the legislators in question have not the vaguest idea of how the web works, and what “social media” means.

This website, for example, is a social media website, in the original definition of the term. The concept was, when the term was coined, of social/public/citizen journalism. I am a “citizen journalist”, and this is a social media website, because I publish my content here, and allow for social/public commentary.

You can bet that I delete/hide/shadowban people who post comments that are not appropriate, and I plan to continue to do so.

I suspect that, to these legislators, “social media” means Facebook, Twitter, and some vague notion that there are other things, like Parler, which they might include. ie, massive scale sites, run by huge organizations with staff of hundreds of thousands. They seem unaware that there are¬†hundreds¬†of large social media sites. Here’s a list of some of the larger ones. Here’s a slightly more comprehensive one. Neither one of those even scrapes the surface of the thousands of blogs, newspaper comment sections, mailing lists, message boards, and so on, that comprise most of the Internet.

You do not have a constitutional right to have your content hosted on any of those sites.

They also have this bizarre notion that you, as a member of the public, have some kind of a right to make whatever comments you want on my website. This notion is not supported by the constitution of the US, or the constitution of Kentucky. Compelling a corporation to host the comments of random strangers on the Internet is contrary to any notion of free speech, and is equivalent to claiming that I have an obligation to leave graffiti on the walls of my house because it represents the protected speech of the random tagger.

Please know that if you comment on this post, and I find the comment doesn’t spark joy, I will delete that comment in a heartbeat, and I don’t have to give you any justification for doing so. The very notion that the Kentucky government will fine me $75,000 for doing that is absurd and unconstitutional.

Then there’s the even more complicated question of what constitutes a political or religious comment. I would say that practically any comment is political speech, in the right context.

Now, obviously, they don’t intend to apply this law to me, in the unlikely event that it would pass. Presumably they want to apply it to Twitter – a company that has no staff or offices in Kentucky. So there’s also the question of how they would have any power to enforce this.

I wonder how many other industries state and federal legislatures attempt to regulate without the barest attempt to understand. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess “all of them.”

Edit: I just found the original document – https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/21RS/sb111/orig_bill.pdf – and it defines a social media site (among other things) as a site with more than 75 million subscribers. While this changes the details, it doesn’t change the principles behind my remarks here.

I have placed an archived copy of the bill here.