Are legislators willing to regulate social media?

Submitted by Phil Anthony
Posted 3/21/23

Dear editor:

I was watching an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” the other night. His guest in that episode was Elon Musk, who said something to the effect that “regulations …

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Are legislators willing to regulate social media?


Dear editor:

I was watching an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” the other night. His guest in that episode was Elon Musk, who said something to the effect that “regulations stifle innovation.” This was a slightly different spin on the anti-regulation position taken by most Republicans, but in the context of innovation, it didn’t make sense, and I’ve been thinking about it for days.

Almost invariably, regulations appear after an innovation has been widely adopted and subsequently shown to have harmful consequences. Workplace safety, transportation safety, food safety, building codes, environmental standards — regulation in all these areas came about only after people died as a result of lack of regulation, and in most cases was vehemently opposed by the industries whose practices were doing the killing. (A little-known fact: one popular ingredient in processed food before the creation of the Food and Drug Administration — formaldehyde! It’s toxic, but it kept products looking appealing!)

But then I read a story in the March 7 edition of your paper, about how our esteemed legislator from Powell, Dan Laursen, wants to stifle innovation by regulating a non-existent business practice — mandatory microchip implants of company employees.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m no fan of the concept of microchipping humans! But as was pointed out in C.J. Baker’s story, employers track employees (and parents track kids, husbands track wives) through already existing cellphone technology. Mr. Laursen is said to have made mention of husbands “chipping” their spouses ... Wow, really? Whatever happened to good old branding?

In my opinion, social media is the latest unregulated innovation killing people. Bullying is killing our young people through suicide. Misinformation about health issues is killing people through aversion to vaccination, or by minimizing the actual risks of certain diseases. People are dying as a result of violent behavior by radicalized terrorists.

Just as the First Amendment doesn’t protect an individual who shouts “Fire!” in a crowded theater, harmful behavior on social media should not be tolerated as an inalienable right. Are Dan Laursen and our other legislators, both statewide and nationally, willing to address the issue? They’ve certainly been willing to regulate a woman’s right to choose. (So much for that libertarian ideal of individual liberty.)

In the same edition of your paper, in a different story, Mr. Laursen and his colleague Mr. French opposed the nomination of a particular individual to the Industrial Siting Board, a position this person had already held for six years and one whom our governor strongly lobbied for. Why were they opposed? Because he “got in our face” according to Mr. French. Now there’s a reason to reject a perfectly qualified nominee!

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that government doesn’t work, when we elect people who don’t want government to work.

Phil Anthony