X Corp Sues California Over Content Moderation Law

Elon Musk’s X Corp, the parent company of the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, is taking legal action against California’s attorney general, Robert Bonta, regarding the state’s new content moderation law. This move has added fuel to the ongoing debates surrounding online free speech, government regulation, and content moderation.

Last September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed bill AB 587 into law. The legislation stipulates that social media companies must publish their terms of service online and provide a semiannual report to the state attorney general outlining their content moderation policies and practices. These reports should include details on how automated content moderation systems function, the criteria for defining categories such as “hate speech” and “disinformation,” and the quantity of content flagged or removed within these categories.

Newsom’s administration promoted the bill as an initiative to enhance transparency among social networks. However, X Corp argues that this law infringes upon the First Amendment and California’s constitution, potentially forcing the company to moderate users’ politically charged speech against its will.

X Corp
Elon Musk’s X Corp. sues California AG over content moderation law. Source/ Internet

In its complaint filed in California’s Eastern District Court, X Corp stated that the law “compels companies like X Corp. to engage in speech against their will, impermissibly interferes with the constitutionally-protected editorial judgments of companies such as X Corp., has both the purpose and likely effect of pressuring companies such as X Corp. to remove, demonetize, or deprioritize constitutionally-protected speech.” The company further claims that this law places an “undue burden” on social media firms like Musk’s X, which is headquartered in California.

Attorney General Bonta’s office issued a statement acknowledging the lawsuit but refrained from commenting further until it could review the complaint and respond in court.

Governor Newsom previously expressed his support for the bill, emphasizing its role in safeguarding children’s online privacy by protecting them from harmful data mining, violent content, and GPS tracking. He asserted that no other state was doing more than California to shield children from these online threats.

This legal action comes as Elon Musk and his platform have faced mounting controversies regarding content moderation. Musk has implemented several policy changes, such as ceasing enforcement of its Covid-19 misinformation policy and reinstating previously banned users. Additionally, the platform recently encountered issues when brand advertisements appeared alongside content promoting Nazism, leading to ad spend pauses by at least two brands.

Moreover, Musk has threatened legal action against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for defamation, alleging that the organization’s statements about rising hate speech on the platform have adversely affected X’s advertising revenue. The ADL refrained from commenting on the legal threat.

In its lawsuit, X Corp. claims that California’s law could potentially pressure social media platforms into restricting or censoring constitutionally-protected content the state deems objectionable. Furthermore, it argues that the law could force these platforms to take public positions on contentious political issues to avoid public scrutiny.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial to assess the constitutionality and legal validity of California’s content moderation law, further highlighting the ongoing tension between free speech, government regulation, and content moderation on social media platforms.

See also: Apple Shares Drop Amid China iPhone Ban Concerns

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