Massachusetts Senate Bill 168


Summary

Massachusetts Senate Bill 168 would create a commission to study many aspects of video games, including:

  • the benefits;
  • the use by the military and for educational purposes;
  • whether they are addictive;
  • any connection between video games and actual violence; and
  • an evaluation of the law with respect to First Amendment protection afforded to video games.

The legislation also calls on the commission to consider policy proposals to regulate video games and to estimate the cost of those proposals.

Status

The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies recommended the bill be held for further study.

Analysis

The text of S.B. 168 is extremely prejudicial and suggests the commission’s conclusions are predetermined. The bill includes many pejorative terms including “rampage killings,” “killing games,” “addiction to video games” and “training consumers’ brains.” This is terminology used by those who seek to censor the media. We are very concerned that the commission report will be used to perpetuate the claim that violent themes or images in the media cause people to commit actual violence.

A commission is unnecessary even if it is created to be an independent inquiry into an association between video games and violence. The premise for the commission is the belief that the media causes actual violence. Our report, Only a Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence, shows that the commonly held belief that media causes people to kill is based on flawed research and those who accept the belief ignore ample evidence to the contrary. Among the report’s key findings that are pertinent to the consideration of S.B. 168 include:

  • Censorship of violent content is barred by the First Amendment for all types of media, but industry self-regulation works.
  • Research into the effects of video games on aggression is contested and inconclusive. Much of it suffers from methodological deficiencies and provides insufficient data to prove a causal relationship.
  • Real world evidence such as crime statistics does not support the theory that media causes actual violence.

There is a long history of moral panic resulting blaming the media for antisocial behavior by minors and adults. At one time or another, books, movies, opera, jazz, blues, rock and roll, heavy metal and rap music, television, radio, comic books, Internet and social networking sites have all come under attack for “causing” such behavior in minors and adults.

History

  • The bill was introduced [3] on January 16, 2013 and referred to the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
  • On February 4, 2013, Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition [2], explaining the issues with the legislation.
  • On November 4, 2013, Media Coalition submitted a memo in opposition [1], ahead of a scheduled hearing on the bill on November 13, 2013.
  • The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies recommended the bill be held for further study.

Last updated: Jul 23, 2015