In recent months we’ve seen the attorney general of Mississippi, Jim Hood, issue a subpoena against Google requesting information on a very broad range of search engine activities, based on the theory that Google is legally responsible for questionable content on third-party sites indexed by the search giant. Google responded last week with a lawsuit against Hood, asking a federal court to stop the subpoena on a variety of grounds.
Leaving aside the details of the dueling subpoenas and lawsuits, there are two problems here. First, it makes no sense to develop Internet policy on the state level. Hood’s challenge to Google raises issues that by existing law and by common sense are and should be handled at the national level.
Second, Hood’s actions are odd and self-defeating for Mississippi voters, because the state needs to be encouraging tech employment, not waging war against tech firms. Mississippi has an unemployment rate of 7.3%, the highest in the country, in part because the state has not taken advantage of the tech boom. Only 2% of Mississippi’s private-sector workers are in the tech/info sector, the second-lowest share in the U.S. Similarly, only 1.1% of Mississippi workers are in computer and mathematical occupations, also the second-lowest share in the country.
Hood would serve his constituency better by devoting his admirable energies and talents to helping tech firms grow in Mississippi, rather than chasing misguided legal theories.
1.The Mississippi unemployment rate comes from the November 2014 BLS report on state unemployment, released December 19.
2, The figure on Mississippi’s tech/info employment as a share of private sector employment comes from PPI calculations using BLS state data, based on the definition of the tech/info sector described in this report. Note that Mississippi movie and video jobs as a share of all private sector employment is the lowest in the country, out of all states with available data.
3. The figure on computer and mathematical employment in Mississippi is based on PPI analysis of the 2013 American Community Survey.