If you’ve wondered why there aren’t legal guardrails for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you’re not alone. From the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation online to data privacy concerns, controversies about how these companies operate have sparked growing calls for regulation.

But how should government regulate such a novel and fast-changing industry? Some observers compare social media outlets to public utilities, which are subject to clear rules stating how much they can charge and how to treat customers. But Ted Kury, an economist and director of energy studies at the University of Florida’s Public Utility Research Center, says pipelines are a better model. “Like these networks, social media carries a commodity – here it’s information, instead of electricity, oil or gas,” Kury writes. It’s up to Congress to figure out how to make these outlets deliver it safely and fairly.

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Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Energy Editor

Is the law coming for Twitter, Meta and other social media outlets? new look casting/iStock via Getty Images

What social media regulation could look like: Think of pipelines, not utilities

Theodore J. Kury, University of Florida

The US government regulates many industries, but social media companies don’t neatly fit existing regulatory templates. Systems that deliver energy may be the closest analog.

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