Enhancing the FTC’s Consumer Protection Authority to Regulate Social Media Companies

February 2022
How should the federal government oversee Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube?

The social media industry’s self-regulation has proven inadequate. It is time for Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to step in. Our white paper offers principles and policy goals to help lawmakers and regulators sort through the dozens of bills pending before Congress and shape an agenda for the FTC to use its consumer protection authority to incentivize better corporate conduct.

Why consumer protection law provides a feasible means of oversight

The FTC already polices “unfair or deceptive” corporate behavior that harms consumers. By enhancing this authority to require procedurally adequate content moderation and disclosure of how algorithms rank, recommend, and remove harmful material, Congress can empower the FTC to improve transparency in the service of accountability.

Regulating without impinging on First Amendment free-speech rights

The FTC must scrupulously avoid dictating content moderation rules or getting involved in substantive decisions to take down or leave up disputed online material. The agency can do this and still reduce the amplification of harmful content by focusing on whether companies maintain clearly articulated moderation policies, easily understood and adequately resourced enforcement practices, and accessible mechanisms for users to appeal.

FTC White PaperDownload


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