There are already a tremendous number of regulations on social media companies.
The United States (where most of the largest are found besides through China) is not terribly capitalist (it’s considered 17th on the list, way down below many other countries); which is a point I make so it’s clear that every business here is regulated in some way. Here are the primary regulations:
Every company registered in the U.S. has to pay federal taxes. Most also have to pay state taxes, depending where they find themselves registered.
The kind of taxes they pay depends on what kind of business they are; bottom line though, they’re “regulated” because these taxes INCREASE or DECREASE based on what the business does (i.e. regulating their decisions by way of a tax)
- Income tax: Based on income reported
- Estimated tax: Paid based on estimates of future income
- Employment tax: Regulation of employees; payments for Social Security and Medicare, as well as federal unemployment, accountable on each W-2 Employee. Meaning companies have an incentive by the government consider part time or overseas employees.
- Excise taxes: Paid when your business makes purchases on specific goods. Regulates the use of those goods.
2. Employment and Labor Law
The most common labor laws:
- Wages and hours: The Department of Labor and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) outlines standards for wages and overtime pay. This also requires employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay (unless they are exempt).
- Workplace safety and health: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers “provide their employees with work and a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards.”
- Equal opportunity: Companies with at least 15 employees must comply with equal opportunity laws mandating hiring practices in consideration of gender, race, religion, age, and disability
- Non-US citizen workers: The federal government mandates that employers must verify that their employees have permission to work legally in the United States.
- Unions: If your business has union employees, you may need to file certain reports and handle relations with union members in specific ways.
- Family and medical leave: Companies with 50 or more employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for the birth or adoption of a child, or for the serious illness of the employee or a spouse, child, or parent.
- Posters: Some states require notices to be shared or posted in the workplace for employees’ view (for example, alcohol warnings and hand-washing reminders).
- Employee benefit security: If the company offers pension or welfare benefit plans, you are subject to a range of financial disclosure and reporting requirements.
3. Antitrust Laws
Any time a company conspires with its competitors, third-party vendors, or other relevant parties, it may violate antitrust laws:
- Conspiring to fix market prices: Discussing prices with competitors—even if it affects a small marketplace.
- Conspiring to boycott: Conversations with other businesses regarding the potential boycott of another competitor or supplier.
- Conspiring to allocate markets or customers: Agreements between competitors to divide up customers, territories, or markets are illegal.
- Price discrimination: Securing favorable product prices from buyers when other companies can’t.
- Monopolization: Preserving a monopoly position through the acquisition of competitors, the exclusion of competitors to the given market, or the control of market prices.
NOTE: Most people who work online understand that despite the scrutiny, there isn’t a monopolization taking place in things like Facebook and Google
You have to make sure the claims in your ads are not untruthful or purposely deceptive. Using testimonials in your ads comes with additional regulations.
5. Email Marketing
Closely related to advertising is email marketing. If your business engages in email marketing, there are separate regulations you’ll need to comply with under the CAN-SPAM Act:
- Don’t use false or misleading headers
- Don’t use deceptive headlines
- Include your business’s name and address
- Show the customer how to opt out of emails, and honor the opt-out requests promptly
- Indicate that the message is an advertisement
Businesses amass a ton of sensitive personal information about their employees and so there are a variety of rules and regulations about how employers must save and secure this data: Social Security number, address, name, health conditions, credit card, bank numbers, or personal history.
7. Licensing and Permits
Without the proper licenses, states can fine your business or even revoke your authority to operate.
As soon as you hire you are legally obligated to purchase workers compensation insurance. Again, applies to W-2 employees (and I’m not sure if it applies to 1099 employees) so it would be a regulation of having employees.
9. Reporting Pay Data
If you employ more than 100 people (or more than 50 if you’re a federal contractor), you’re required to report how much you pay each of them, broken down by race/ethnicity, job category, and gender, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year.
10. Sales Tax
I kept separate from Taxes both because it’s not like a regular tax, applicable if selling something, and because it isn’t pertinent to the question of social media. Still, a major regulation.
11. Environmental Regulations
Dozens of environmental rules and regulations that might affect your small business, both at the federal and state level. How does that apply here? If they have an office… offices impact the environment – somehow.
We can presume, to be fair, that the question is drawn not from those regulations but the popular topic in the 2020s of social media privacy, censorship, or regulation of content (appreciate that I covered privacy above).
Yes, I covered privacy and it only addressed the privacy of employees. Why? Because the internet is NOT private and companies/sites are under no obligation to make it so. The idea of privacy, online, is fabricate and inaccurate – you might have SOME privacy, because a company wants to provide it, but the internet is not secure, nor private, and therefore we can not (and do not) regulate and require privacy.
Should social media content be regulated? NO
Sites are private property. Companies are private property. If a company wants to be a pornography site, the have the right to do that. If a company wants to be a fake news site, like The Onion or Babylon Bee, they have the right to do that. And thus, any gray area in between what YOU think is right/just and those extreme examples of what is allowed, the company can ALLOW or DELETE ANYTHING THEY WANT.
Section 230, a existing regulation, protects companies from lawsuits, and the government, effectively reinforcing the 1st Amendment and the 4th and 5th Amendments that already exist in protection of people in the United States (from government)
Why all of those Amendments?
Social Media sites are private property, and the posts there are free speech.
Thus, Section 230 helps protect and ensure that whatever happens on social media sites, is the liability of the Individual posting. The site/platform is private property, and can decide to allow, ban, or favor anything at all, as should be. Those posts are protected from the government (First Amendment) and the site/company is protected from the government when people post whatever they want, because of the 4th, 5th, and Section 230.
Collectively, that since what people post is Free Speech, protect from the government, the government doesn’t have reasonable cause to search, seize, or be deprived of the property without due process. Therefore, the sites decide. And to further protect that, Section 230 prevents a site/company for being liable for what *someone else* says, on their platform – as it should be.