Back from the Dead (Again): The Specter of the Fairness Doctrine and its Lessons for Social Media Regulation

39 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021

Date Written: February 1, 2021

Abstract

Debates about political bias in the content curation and moderation practices of social media platforms have spilled over into the policy realm, rekindling conversations about the Fairness Doctrine and its potential utility in possible regulatory approaches to social media. This paper revisits the history of the Fairness Doctrine and uses this history as a lens for critically examining current proposals for integrating Fairness Doctrine-like principles into a regulatory framework for social media. In addressing this topic, the first section of this paper provides a brief overview of the history of the Fairness Doctrine and how the Doctrine has informed (and misinformed) subsequent media policy debates in the years since its elimination. The second section describes how the Fairness Doctrine is being brought to bear in the contemporary debates around social media regulation. The third section offers a critical analysis of the applicability of the Fairness Doctrine to the social media context. This section considers fundamental differences between legacy and current contexts, as well as key lessons from the Fairness Doctrine that should inform current deliberations.

Keywords: Social Media, Fairness Doctrine, Bias, Media Regulation, Media Policy

JEL Classification: L82, L86

Suggested Citation

Napoli, Philip M., Back from the Dead (Again): The Specter of the Fairness Doctrine and its Lessons for Social Media Regulation (February 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3764849 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3764849

Philip M. Napoli (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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