X Corp, the parent company of X (formerly known as Twitter), filed a lawsuit against California’s Attorney General Robert Bonta over the state’s new content moderation law.
Slamming the law as “unconstitutional”, the Elon Musk-led company claimed it violates the right to free speech. The moderation law in question has been in effect since a year ago when Governor Gavin Newsom signed bill AB 587 into law.
According to it, social media companies are required to post their terms of service online and submit a semi-annual report to the attorney general that publicly discloses their content moderation practices.
X Corp’s Unwillingness to Disclose Its Moderation Practices
In its complaint, X Corp alleged that the content moderation law forces social media companies to “engage in a 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 report should also disclose how the moderation rules are enforced and what users can do to understand relevant practices and challenge them if needed.
The content moderation practices that social media companies are required to outline in the report include how their automated moderation processes work, how different controversial content categories like “disinformation” and “hate speech” are defined, and how many pieces of content have been flagged and/or removed in each such category.
X Corp alleged that the law violates the state’s constitution and the First Amendment by forcing the company to moderate politically charged speech from its users. The lawsuit also claims that the content moderation law could impose an “undue burden” on social media companies.
Governor Newsom’s office, however, promoted the bill as a means to foster transparency from social networks. Following the lawsuit, one of his spokespersons shared a statement from last September, in which the governor had remarked that “California will not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country”.
This action brings much-needed transparency and accountability to the policies that shape the social media content we consume every day.Governor Newsom’s office
The statement went on to emphasize the Californians’ right to know how social media platforms are affecting the public discourse.
X Corp’s Falling Revenues: A Potential Reason Behind the Lawsuit
Elon Musk recently threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League, claiming that the X’s advertising revenues have been hit hard by the nonprofit organization’s reports on the rise of hate speech on the microblogging platform.
Last month, two brands advertising on X paused their ad spending after their advertisements were presented alongside an account promoting Nazism.
The company’s approach to content moderation is one of the many factors that have caused its revenues to plummet since Musk’s takeover. Publicly disclosing its content moderation practices could further hurt its revenues, which would explain why X Corp decided to sue the attorney general.
When asked about the lawsuit, Robert Bonta’s press office responded – “While we have not yet been served with the complaint, we will review it and respond in court”.