States Driving Legislative Change on Today’s Most Critical Issues

It’s no surprise to hear that the divides in our country are at an all-time high. A new Gallup poll released earlier this month found that party preferences among Americans are strongly divided. The poll found that 45% of U.S. adults identify as Republican or Republican-leaning independents, and 44% identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, which is the first time since 2011 that the margins of party preferences are nearly split evenly.

While the divides between Americans have grown closer, we’ve also seen growing fractions within each political party grow stronger too. In recent years, we’ve seen a rise of in-battling among both political parties, with a rise in liberal and conservative influence within the Democratic and Republican parties delaying or completely derailing party’s legislative goals.

The messy Speakership battle in the House this month put the dysfunction in Washington on full display for the first time this Congress and foreshadows that gridlock will continue to hinder any chance for compromise on the passage of meaningful legislation.

Following the Speakership election, a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll found that most Americans (61%) believe that a Republican House and Democratic President are less likely to get anything done in this “new era of divided government.” In fact, 58% of Americans stated that they believe it is unlikely that Republicans will do any compromising with Democrats over the next two years.

Because of years of gridlock in Congress, state legislatures across the country have had to fill in the gaps and legislate on issues that the federal government has been unable to do.

The regulation of Big Tech companies is one of the most recent examples of where states are taking action as a result of Congress’ inaction. From concerns over online privacy, content moderation, antitrust, child safety and taxation, there has been widespread support for the regulation of Big Tech in Congress – both among Republicans and Democrats. But despite a strong desire for federal fixes to these problems, legislative solutions have ultimately been stalled.

In the absence of federal policy, states have taken their own action. California signed into law a new online safety bill late last year that requires large internet companies, like Facebook, to implement changes to their sites to make the platform safer for children. States like Florida and Texas are seeking legislative solutions to prevent social media companies from censoring certain types of speech. And in New York and Minnesota, state legislators are trying to advance legislation to overhaul antitrust laws.

As the 118th Congress kicks off, leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties have expressed the urgent need to pass federal legislation to regulate Big Tech. Just this month, President Biden penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal urging Republicans and Democrats to unite on “bipartisan action from Congress to hold Big Tech accountable.”

While there may be widespread support in Congress for regulating Big Tech, both sides are divided in their approach. Consider the debate of content moderation, which both sides cite as a problem but offer differing solutions. The main goal for democrats is to “prevent the spread of misinformation,” while Republicans are concerned about censorship of content by social media companies.

There is mounting pressure for Congress to act, but given this new era of divided government that we find ourselves in, it’s likely that states will continue to be the driving force of change legislatively on technology policy, as well as many other pressing issues facing our country that the continued gridlock in Congress will prevent action on.

Twitter’s Uncertain Future and its Impact on Businesses and Policymakers

With Elon Musk now at the helm of Washington’s most popular social media platform, the overall integrity of Twitter is being questioned. Concern that changes to content moderation policies will lead to a rise in hate speech and misinformation are a growing issue for corporations and government officials who are unsure if hate speech or misinformation will run alongside their content. News of mass layoffs and the resignations of many C-level executives has also caused users and policymakers to question the safety and security of the platform.

According to a new report released by the nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters for America, Twitter has lost half of its top advertisers since Musk took the helm. The report states that 50 of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers, which have collectively spent approximately $2 billion in spending since 2020, have pulled their advertising spend over the past month. These are companies that span across various sectors, including Abbott Laboratories, AMC Networks, American Express Company, Big Heart Petcare, BlackRock, Inc., CA Lottery (California State Lottery), Chanel, Chevrolet, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Citigroup, Inc., CNN, DirecTV, Ford, Heineken N.V., Hewlett-Packard (HP), Kellogg Company, Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc., LinkedIn Corporation, Marriott International, Inc., Mars Petcare, Merck & Co. (Merck Sharp & Dohme MSD), Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook, Inc.), The Coca-Cola Company, The Kraft Heinz Company, and others.

Since taking over the platform, Musk has stated his intent to make Twitter less reliant on advertising – which previously made up approximately 90% of the company’s revenue. However, Musk’s new subscription service for “verified” accounts, which was launched last month, had lax protocols for approvals and led to a flurry of fake accounts popping up across the platform, including accounts impersonating current and former government officials, such as Senator Ed Markey, President Biden, and former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush.

There were also fake accounts impersonating companies. After a fake account for Eli Lilly went live stating that insulin would now be free, the company’s stock price dropped 4.5% in just a few hours. These fake impersonation accounts were ultimately taken down, but Musk announced that verified impersonation accounts that state they are “parody” accounts within their name will be allowed to remain. For example, a fake parody account taking aim at former New York gubernatorial candidate, “Lee Zeldin (parody),” was allowed to remain on Twitter under Musk’s new rule.

Federal lawmakers and regulators are paying close attention to the impact Musk’s policies are having on the safety and security of the platform. The botched rollout of the verification subscription trigged a warning statement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on November 10 with an FTC spokesperson confirming that the agency was “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.” A week later, a group of democratic senators, including Senator Markey, sent a letter to the FTC urging the agency to investigate Twitter for “any breach of Twitter’s consent decree or other violations of our consumer protection laws.”

Several other policymakers have publicly voiced their concerns, especially over foreign investment in Twitter. President Bidens expressed concern over the Saudi government’s investment in the Twitter deal, and Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Finance Committee, raised concern over the agreement, stating that Twitter needs a “careful review” by Congress.

It seems entirely possible that Musk will be called to testify before Congress and that the FTC may consider some form of disciplinary action against the company given its public warning earlier this month.

As businesses and policymakers consider whether to continue to post or advertise on Twitter, they will not only evaluate the security risks, but they must assess the threat to their brand from customers, employees, investors, and other concerned parties.

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