National Rights Groups Take Aim at Massachusetts Video Game Research Bill

Berin Szoka, President of Internet rights organization TechFreedom has penned an interesting editorial over at the Huffington Post detailing his group's opposition to Massachusetts state lawmakers pushing for research on the connection between real-world violence and playing violent video games.

Last week TechFreedom, the National Coalition Against Censorship and four other groups filed comments (PDF) expressing concern about legislation proposed in Massachusetts. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont), would commission a study on video games as causes of real-world violence. Brownsberger has take a lot of heat for his bill within the state, with some calling its tone and wording prejudicial against video games.

In his editorial Szoka gives readers a history lesson on how the California law that was challenged in the Supreme Court (Brown v. EMA) was ultimately rejected in a 2010 ruling, and how Brownsberger's bill is simply a vehicle to get legislation that censors games passed in the State.

"Any law that imposes special restrictions on video games, like minimum age to purchase or subjective labeling, will require a lot more proof than the Massachusetts study could provide. Given the heavy burden born by the government — "ambiguous proof will not suffice" — any scientific study trying to upturn today's scientific consensus (finding no causal link) would have to be exceptionally rigorous and thorough.

But a study contrived to reach the preordained conclusion that video games cause violence certainly would unleash another flurry of state legislation and years more of protracted litigation. Worse, there's no doubt it would encourage politicians to resume attempts to browbeat video game publishers into self-censorship — in other words, trying to circumvent the Supreme Court's Brown decision."

Szoka goes on to say that politicians at the state and national level have been trying to evade the First Amendment since the Bill of Rights was ratified and points out that Senator Rockefeller's Violent Content Research Act of 2013 is a bad bill as well. He closes by saying that any legislation will find itself challenged in the courts if it is unconstitutional and attempting to censor free speech.

You can check out Szoka's editorial on the Huffington Post.

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