Regulation of social media has become a hot topic since the Russian meddling with the 2016 election and last year’s widely misunderstood Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal. Legislators have debated various problems with social media and bots, with the only agreed-upon themes being that social media firms are up to something nefarious, and that something must be done about them. Unfortunately, policymakers are too confident that simply throwing more government at the problems — whatever those may be — will fix them, and are proposing a number of solutions that are well-intended but largely ill-conceived.
It’s worth reconsidering, then, what exactly these controversies brought to light. Doing so will make clear that the laws proposed don’t address the real problems and instead would trigger adverse unintended consequences.