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TPF Advocacy Team Wraps Up Policy Proposal on Social Media Regulation

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

TPF Workshop Team Deputy Director, Nicole Manning,

with a copy of the report at the TPF Summer Sendoff.


June 26, 2022

NEW YORK— Teens for Press Freedom’s advocacy arm recently completed extensive research identifying and outlining policy solutions to prevent the spread of misinformation and protect users’ data. This project was inspired by the 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma. The proposal concentrates on the idea that social media is a profit-oriented industry and therefore change can only arise from removing economic incentives. The research also draws from PEN America’s annual reports on the status of press freedom globally.

Advocacy Team Co-Director Althea Collier mentioned the objective of the research project as, “taking a young person and student approach,” to the relationship of social media to press freedom.

Research began in April 2022, when members from around the country researched social media regulation over the course of six weeks.

The Advocacy team researched and wrote several research papers, according to team member Delia Rune. The final product was later compiled, representing a single booklet on social media regulation across the U.S. The project was released on TPF’s Instagram on June 25.

“The final project is geared towards further spreading information about the dangers of social media to TPF’s audience and what we as consumers can do to help regulate these dangers,” Advocacy Co-Director Maybelle Keyser-Buston said.

To collect information, team members read articles and gathered statistical data from a variety of sources. The proposal outlines several ideas for social media regulation, the first being a digital service tax. This proposal would tax the revenues companies make from targeted advertisements and selling users’ data. This tax has already been implemented in several places in Europe and would result in monetary penalties for social media companies for the misuse of user data. Another solution recommended in the proposal is to repeal section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It currently prevents tech companies and social media companies from being sued or held responsible for the actions taken or the content posted by users on the site. Therefore, these corporations cannot be held responsible for bullying, harassment, or the spread of misinformation on their sites. Finally, the last recommendation is to implement a right to be forgotten. This would allow users to protect identifying data from advertisers and to delete their profiles and information once they leave the site.

After completing the project, team members spoke about what they discovered about social media during the process. Collier contributed, “[Social media] is not a space that's actually created for any kind of education, or awareness. Social media is not meant to inform people, it's meant to profit off of them.”

Director Keyser-Buston, also said, “A lot of the information about the “behind-the-scenes” of social media companies confirmed what we already knew: that social media is designed to exploit our desires, feelings, and thoughts.”

Currently, the final project will be shared to high school students learning about media literacy, and it was distributed at the June 25 "Summer Sendoff" in Central Park.

Since beginning, the team has kept their final vision in mind: something specific and informative, but also accessible to a wide audience of young people. Now, the presentation for their ideas is a finalist in a competition sponsored by Newsweek. Members and readers can vote for their project here. You can read the full report here.


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