New Jersey lawmakers are considering new legislation, entitled the “Social Networking Site Safety Act”, that would require Facebook, MySpace and others social networking sites to police every post to determine if it is “offensive”.
Under the proposed law social networking sites would face potential consumer fraud lawsuits if they failed to take down an offensive post.
The bill’s definition of social networking sites extends far beyond Facebook.com and MySpace.com to encompass any Web site with social networking functionality.
“The s is intended to deter cyber-bullying and the misuse of social networking Web sites,” the Office of Attorney General said in a statement about the measure. “The bill empowers users of social networking sites to take steps to stop harassment or exploitation.”
Among other provisions, the Social Networking Safety Act (A. 3757, S. 2705) says social networking sites potentially violate state consumer fraud laws by failing to revoke the access of anyone accused of making a “harassing communication.”
The law makes an exception for sites that establish a reporting mechanism, in the form of “a readily identifiable icon”, for members to complain about posts. The sites would then be required to investigate and make referrals to law enforcement where appropriate. They also would have to allow users to block messages from offenders.
The act also imposes civil liability on users who make offensive posts.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company hasn’t taken an official position on the bill, but already has the infrastructure the measure requires. “We will remove offensive or harassing content reported to us and may take further action, including disabling the account of the user who is responsible,” the spokesperson said. A MySpace spokesperson declined to comment because the bill is still taking shape.
The bill’s definition of “harassing communication” is defined under the bill as “any communication which is directed at a specific person, serves no legitimate purpose, and a reasonable person would believe is intended to threaten, intimidate or harass another person.”
Talk about broad and vague language.
Again here we have a state attorney general trying to regulate the Internet.
On the heals of the Kentucky Attorney General action last year, look for more local governments to grab headlines and continue to attempt to pass local laws to control the Internet.