by Betsy Gomez
CBLDF and other free speech advocates won an important victory last year when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. EMA, striking down a California law that restricted the sale of video games to minors based on specious evidence that violence in video games causes violence in children. The law would have made violent speech a new category of unprotected speech, alongside obscenity.
A law proposed by Representatives Joe Baca and Frank Wolf has raised free speech concerns again. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has raised the issue, writing:
But under the proposed law, a label that says “WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior” would be a required addition for all games rated E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10 and older), M (Mature), or A (Adult), regardless of the contents of the game. Only games released with an EC (Early Childhood) rating would be excluded from the labeling requirement. So games like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13 or Carmen Sandiego Adventures in Math would require the warning, but you could get away without for Dora’s Ballet Adventure.
Rep. Baca tries to cloak his anti-speech bill by the inapt comparison for tobacco warning labels in the press release announcing the bill. But while there is a wealth of proof that cigarettes are dangerous, studies simply haven’t conclusively demonstrated a causal link between video games and aggressive behavior. One recent study, for example, indicated that “exposure to video game violence was not related to any negative outcomes.” [pdf]
Further, in a recent Supreme Court decision to strike down a California law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors, the justices emphatically rejected studies that purport to show such a link: “California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason.”
The Comics Code Authority was founded under the same auspices of “expert” testimony that comics were causing violent behavior among youth. EFF has started a campaign to inform legislators about the concerns they have over the law. You can find their campaign here.