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Regulatory Policy in the United States (Part Ⅰ)

Oct 16, 2023

The backbone of U.S. online content regulation: industry self-discipline

Unlike regions such as the European Union that regulate online content through government legislation, the United States Online content mainly relies on industry cooperation for self-management. The U.S government has taken a more cautious approach to regulate online content. Its famous Regulation 230 stipulates that operators of Internet services are not required to the three parties bear legal responsibility for their speech, which is almost equivalent to an immunity order for the online platform. Although the United States has held many rounds of debates on the abolition of Section 230 in recent years, as of now, the legislative status quo that Internet platforms are not responsible for platform content has not changed. However, the absence of government legislative supervision does not mean that the U.S. cyber world is no restrictions. First, although the U.S. government is limited by its protection of free speech, it cannot Legislation is adopted to restrict platforms, but the U.S. Congress is also constantly putting pressure on companies to require enterprises take measures to solve the chaos of online content. Second, active social interaction in the United States. The platforms basically belong to the world’s leading companies, although there are no legal restrictions in the United States. regulations, but legislative requirements in other places, such as the European Union, will also force American companies to network content is restricted. Third, as mentioned earlier, mainstream overseas app stores, both Google Play and App Store have set up content review rules for apps listed on the shelves. The entry threshold voluntarily set by leading industries has become a ban for American Internet companies. Hard requirements that are not followed. Next, this article will focus on the key areas of online content regulation in the United States.

1. Minors

In the 1990s, because minors were easily exposed to large amounts of in formation on the Internet, a large amount of pornographic content aroused concern and resistance from the people and the government, and this began the first wave of Internet regulation in the United States. Several well-known legislative proposals include the CDA(1996 Communications Decency Act), 1998 COPA( Children's Online Protection Act), 2000 COPPA (Child Online Privacy Protection Act), CDA Communications Decency Act.
CDA( Communications Decency Act)
The Communications Decency Act is the United States’ first attempt to legislate the control of minors exposure to Internet pornography. In 1996, the United States passed what is known as the “U.S. The Telecommunications Law (Telecommuni-cations) is the watershed between the old and new communications worlds in China. Act of 1996, TA), the Communications Decency Act is Chapter 5 of the Telecommunications Act Content, the main purpose is to prohibit the use of the Internet to minors under the age of 18 transmit "Indecent" and "Obscene" content. The Communications Decency Act consists of two parts. The first part stipulates that through mutual providing or transmitting obscene or obscene comments to minors under the age of 18 through the Internet comments, demands, suggestions, images and other materials or information, if the circumstances are serious, you shall be held criminal responsibility. The second part is the famous Article 230, which stipulates that Internet services the operator of the service does not need to bear legal responsibility for third-party speech on the platform. But in the 1997 case of Reynolds v. American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the first part of the bill is unconstitutional and restricts minors from accessing vulgar and obscene content online. Article was deemed invalid. Supreme Court rules anti-vulgar content provision of Communications Decency Act unconstitutional The main reason is that the definitions of "vulgar" and "obscene" in the bill are unclear. For a bill that seeks to limit speech, it uses vague language bound to greatly weaken freedom of speech. Secondly, as a criminal law bill, the bill is heavy punishment will have a deterrent effect, and its vague and unclear expressions will also make people. It is possible to give up one's otherwise legitimate speech for fear of being sentenced. After the Communications Decency Act was deemed unconstitutional, the U.S. Congress took into account the court’s opinion on the vagueness of the statute and re-drafted the Children’s Online Protection Act. The Children's Online Protection Act restricts regulated content in three aspects. First, the Communications Decency Act covers the entire Internet, while the Children's Online Protection Act is limited to the World Wide Web. Second, the Children’s Online Protection Act only applies to communications that have “commercial purposes.” Finally, the Children's Online Protection Act only regulates online content that is "harmful to minors." The Children's Online Protection Act's content restrictions withstand intense First Amendment scrutiny. However, both the Supreme Court and the local courts believed that the regulatory approach it provided was still too broad (not the least restrictive) and would simultaneously prevent adults from expressing protected speech. After three separate rounds of judicial proceedings, the Children's Online Protection Act was found unconstitutional and permanently banned in 2009.
COPPA (Child Online Privacy Protection Act)
Unlike the previous three bills that regulate Internet content, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act mainly targets the privacy protection of children under the age of 13. COPPA was officially implemented in April 2000. It requires network operators, including online websites and online services, to notify the children's parents before collecting personal information from children under 13 years old, and to obtain their explicit consent. Carry out information collection. From the Communications Decency Act to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, U.S. minors’ online protection legislation has been repealed several times, and the focus of legislation has also undergone several changes. Up to now, children's privacy protection has become the most thoroughly implemented judicial area for online protection of minors in the United States. However, legislative control of inappropriate content for minors is still relatively limited, and it mainly relies on platform conventions for self-restraint. For example, Apple announced in August 2021 that it had updated a communication safety feature in its Messages app. When a child receives a pornographic image, the image will become blurred, and the Messages app will display a warning telling the child that it is not allowed. View photos and provide resources to contact people they trust for help.

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