On Wednesday, the Massachusetts state legislature will consider S.168, a bill that calls for a state-sponsored study to investigate the effect of violent video games – called “killing games” in the bill – on violent behavior among youth. CDT joined the National Coalition Against Censorship and other First Amendment organizations in comments urging the Massachusetts legislature to reject the bill, which singles out video games in an obvious prelude to content-based regulation.
Attempts to regulate video games are not new: many states have tried to restrict minors’ access to video games out of concern for the perceived effect of games on children and teens’ behavior. But these attempts have failed, with the 2011 Supreme Court decision in Brown v EMA underscoring that video games, like books, movies, and online content, receive full First Amendment protection from regulatory burdens imposed by the government. First Amendment doctrine is clear: the government may not target expression “because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”
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