January 18, 2013

Legislating Goes Social: Bills Would Address Web Posts

1-18-2013 Texas:

When Democratic state Rep. Helen Giddings entered the Texas Legislature in 1992, no one had heard of social media. In fact, few people owned personal computers, and cell phones were just coming of age.

With the emergence of new technology, legislators have filed a bevy of bills that could change the way some Texans use social media. The measures largely stem from lawmakers' concerns about privacy and safety for Texans who spend an increasingly large portion of their lives online.

"This whole social media phenomenon is so new that as we go along we have to set up these new guidelines to guide us into territories that, up to this point, have been uncharted," said Giddings.

While social media regulations are becoming more commonplace as states take on questions of online privacy, some experts sound a note of caution to lawmakers attempting to regulate technology that is ever evolving. And a note of caution to social media users: "Everything you do is public, and perhaps forever," said Robert Quigley, a social media expert and senior lecturer in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

Giddings' proposal, HB 318, would "prohibit employers from requiring or requesting access to personal accounts of employees or job applicants through electronic communication devices." Her proposal would include personal cell phones, computers and social media accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter.

State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, filed an identical bill, SB 118.

Giddings does not have any social media accounts herself, but she said that privacy concerns from her constituents inspired the bill.

"Would someone want a text message read that they might have sent to a friend if they were frustrated with one of their coworkers momentarily," Giddings said. "Probably not." ..continued.. by Cody Permenter

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