The Devil Really Is In the Details

On this week’s podcast, the Pod Squad discussed details about forthcoming legislation by Sen. Anavitarte that will target social media oversight for young Georgians. As the guys said on the podcast, “Yeah, okay, not a bad idea. Show us how it looks.” Even content Senator Anavitarte shared on his social media feed shows that a lot of us are repeating the same cautious optimism about his legislation.

A few observations.

First, social media oversight is always a good discussion to have. The diversification and decentralized nature of content generation on the internet means there is always a new fangled way to communicate ideas. That boasts a lot of positives. The empowerment of predators notwithstanding, there is also a lot that leaves to be desired. Body shaming, aggressive natured comments, cropping pictures of politicians at a groundbreaking — all instances of when people feel threatened online by the actions of someone else. In a lot of those instances, shots were fired by the posters. It’s easy to be brave when there isn’t someone you have to make eye contact with. It also means you don’t have to see the heartbreak and depression that, bit by bit, sets in when someone isn’t in the room to see it in your eyes. Some will say government oversight is warranted, some parental — either way, we need to be more watchful, especially when it comes to our children.

Second, and this is where the rub lies, politicians have extreme power to make decisions that affect our lives but generally a second-grade understanding of what they’re actually talking about. Yeah, not a bad idea. No, a lot of us don’t feel comfortable about how you’ll write this law in crayon. For example, most legislators couldn’t describe to you what even a “pixel” is used for, yet it’s one of the most important (or intrusive, depending on who you ask) pieces of code that helps power our digital economy. Every platform has their own unique code, but they’re relatively simple to implement. How is that impacted by this legislation? Or, take a platform like Skool that is not exactly like social media as many people understand it, but it does share features with things like Facebook groups. What about a site like Peach Pundit where Bill Simon will light your ass up every time you criticize Jason Aldean’s crappy music – does that mean our website would be liable for serious enforcement?

Let’s get a bit more complex. If you’ve used generative AI in any of its varied ways, you know there’s not a bright line between “social media” and other technology platforms. Midjourney is a AI text-to-image creation platform that operates through Discord. How would something like that be impacted? The use of the platform is significantly different than many different other ways that Discord is used. Are we now requiring government oversight and approval for AI usage?

These are not arguments against the forthcoming legislation, but they aren’t merely rhetorical questions. In most cases, conservative politicians from exurban-Atlanta or non-metro counties have a different audience than most people in the real world – primary voters. Legislation like this plays well to the base, but either ends up 1) not doing a damn thing or 2) worse, creates a hydra of unintended consequences. Ask either the Senator or LG about some of the questions, you’re likely not to get direct, clear answers. No fault of their own, though. New technology is dynamic. It changes fast. It’s why legislative action is so, so hard to craft. It’s well-intentioned, but often times will miss the mark.

In the meantime, here’s to an unregulated Peach Pundit.

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