Over 500 million people have Facebook accounts and 50% of those people log into the site daily in order to post status updates. About 100 million people have Twitter accounts and there are about 55 million “tweets” per day that are posted on the network. After looking at these numbers, it should come as no surprise that there has been speculation about the necessity of new social media laws to regulate the industry, especially in light of the upcoming 2012 election campaigns.
In fact, there is talk about the Federal Election Commission or FEC creating new laws which will regulate the industry. The argument is that the old laws, many of which were written before the fax machine was invented, simply can not regulate social media sites. Some states have already beat the Federal Election Commission to the job and have created laws. The state of Maryland, in consultation with social media lawyers and lawmakers developed a set of regulations that govern social media interactions in that state.
The state of Iowa has also developed social media regulations specifically to try to ward off any problems that may arise during the campaign in 2012. The laws in Iowa state that candidates that advertise on social media sites must disclose who has paid for the advertisement. This is to hopefully stop imposters from posting erroneous information on the sites, or at least in order to help the public separate fact from fiction as legitimate advertisements and posts would have a disclosure statement.
Although some feel that regulating social media networks is a necessary step, others feel that the efforts are at best misguided and at worst, a threat to free speech. Some detractors cite for example, that social media sites are often self regulating and that users can access information online to check if information is correct or not. Therefore, the regulations governing advertisements is not necessary.
Critics claim that regulating social media sites and advertisements on those sites can stifle free speech and create a hostile environment where people may be afraid to post their opinions and thoughts for fear of what may happen. For example, many companies now have laws which govern how employees can use social media and what they can and can not say about their co-workers and the company they work for on social media sites. Lawsuits can arise when employees speak about work related matters online; lawsuits can also arise when employees have been fired for things that have been discussed online.
How will future laws affect social media use or more specifically, how will new laws affect the 2012 campaign and how information is shared? Right now, no one seems to know.
A social media law which will change social media will probably also affect the big number of industries in which social media plays a major role now. One of them may be the free people search engines industry where you can use major websites like MySpace or Facebook to find people for free online.