First-of-Its-Kind Tech Research Suggests Policies Requiring Websites to Host Hate Speech May Harm Digital Economy

First-of-Its-Kind Tech Research Suggests Policies Requiring Websites to Host Hate Speech May Harm Digital Economy

James McCool
James McCool
September 13, 2023

A recent study by the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Research Center and NERA Economic Consulting has found that platforming hate speech could harm both the companies advertising alongside the content and the apps and websites hosting it.

"Must carry," policies are prevalent in states like Florida, which require digital services to host all legal user-generated content – including hate speech.  The notion could damage the digital economy, the association stated in a press release. The data shows that an average of 40% of respondents reported liking the social media service less after viewing simulated hate speech content, while 20% reported that the content made them like the advertiser less.

"The findings indicate that user attitudes toward both digital services and adjacent advertisers are harmed by simulated hate speech, and ad click-through and purchase intentionality decline as well," said CCIA Chief Economist & Director of the Research Center Trevor Wagener.

The report analyzed the results of the first two public-facing survey experiments evaluating the impact of harmful third-party content on user attitudes toward websites and online advertisers, the association said. Both survey experiments used simulated content in a mock social media feed with imitation advertisements to measure respondent attitudes toward websites, apps, and advertisers before and after viewing simulated hate speech.

"This research provides direct evidence of the significant harms to websites, apps, and advertisers presented by laws forcing digital services to host all legal user-generated content," said CCIA President Matt Schruers. "The findings prove that when the government infringes upon private companies’ First Amendment rights to decide what content is appropriate for their audiences, the entire digital economy suffers."

The issue begs a constitutional question as well.  “Digital services have a First Amendment right to refuse to host users that promote suicide and self-harm, or that peddle racism and hate, for example,” said CCIA President Matt Schruers. “This bill disagrees and would give foreign extremists trafficking in vicious propaganda a platform to spread lies that put Americans at risk. Leading technology providers don’t want that, and nor do Texans.”

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James McCool

James McCool

is based in Tallahassee and is currently a Senior at Florida State University, studying Political Science and Religion. With a deep interest in politics, Jim has been initiated into the Benjamin Franklin Society of Scholars, and has competed nationally in undergraduate Mock Trial, as well as started the Moot Court team at his former high school. When not writing or studying, Jim is usually hitting the gym, watching reruns of Frasier, or keeping tabs on the New England Patriots.

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