Social Media Platforms Must Establish a Mechanism to Report Hate Speech

As part of the response to the horrific killings in Buffalo, Governor Hochul, Senate Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, and Assembly Leader Carl Heastie agreed on a legislative package that included gun control measures and additional regulations on social media.

As part of the package, S5411 (Sponsored by Sen. Anna Kaplan) and A7865 (Fahy) passed last week. These bills require “social media networks” to develop a mechanism for consumers to report “hate speech.” There is no liability for the content of the speech itself. There is potential liability if a social media site fails to adopt a mechanism that allows people to report slander. Moreover, there is nothing in the legislation dealing with what a social network should do with the information once it is reported. While there is no specific language in the legislation, there could be a potential liability for companies that receive a “hate speech” complaint and do not report it to the authorities.

From a broadcaster’s perspective, there is a question of whether the legislation could apply to our social media sites. The legislation reads:

“‘Social media network’ means service providers, which, for profit-making purposes, operate internet platforms that are designed to enable users to share any content with other users or to make such content available to the public.”

It is simply not clear whether a station’s Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter account falls within this definition. If it does, then we would be responsible for developing a mechanism for an individual to report “hate speech” that may appear on our social media platforms. Moreover, this could mean that every business that has a Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter account would have to create a tool for reporting harmful posts.

We have raised this issue with Assembly and Senate Leadership as well as with the Governor’s office. We expect that additional legislative work will be needed to clarify this issue.

To see the legislation, click HERE.


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