California Law Requiring X to Disclose Content Moderation Policies Upheld by Federal Judge

On Thursday, a federal judge in California delivered a significant blow to Elon Musk’s X platform, previously known as Twitter, by ruling against the company’s attempt to block a state law that requires the public disclosure of its content moderation policies.

The decision from U.S. District Judge William Shubb rejects X’s claim that the law infringes on its free speech rights under both the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution. The ruling is a result of X, formerly Twitter, filing a lawsuit in September against California Assembly Bill 587, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat.

X argued that the law imposed unjustified burdens on its editorial judgments and violated its right to determine what content it would or wouldn’t allow on its platform. The company rejected the notion that the law was designed to promote transparency.

In his eight-page decision, Judge Shubb acknowledged the compliance burden placed on social media companies by the mandate but found it justified. He suggested that the “terms of service” requirements are integral and could significantly influence user decisions.

The law empowers the state of California to dictate the terms of service for large social media companies such as X, mandating the inclusion of content moderation-related terms. Additionally, it requires X to submit semi-annual “terms of service reports” to the California attorney general, disclosing detailed information about its content moderation practices, definitions for various categories of content, and statistics related to actions taken to moderate the content.

Supporters of the law argue that it serves as a tool to combat online hate and holds social media platforms accountable for user-generated content. Mr. Newsom, upon signing the law, said, “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.”

However, X challenged this characterization, pointing to legislative history and statements from the law’s authors and proponents as evidence of its alleged true intent. The company argued that the law placed an unjustified and undue burden on social media companies and was designed to pressure them to “eliminate” content deemed undesirable or harmful by the state, therefore interfering with constitutionally protected speech.

In its lawsuit, X cited a quote from a California Assembly Committee on Judiciary Report, dated April 27, 2021, which states: “If social media companies are forced to disclose what they do in this regard [i.e., how they moderate online content], it may pressure them to become better corporate citizens by doing more to eliminate hate speech and disinformation.”

The lawsuit also contended that the law imposed an undue burden on interstate commerce and conflicted with Section 230 of the U.S. Code, which provides immunity to social media companies for actions taken in good faith to restrict access to objectionable material. The Epoch Times has reached out to X’s attorney for comment.

In conclusion, X’s lawsuit to block the California state law mandating the public disclosure of its content moderation policies has been rejected by U.S. District Judge William Shubb. The judge acknowledged the compliance burden placed on social media companies but deemed it justified. The law empowers the state to dictate terms of service for large social media companies, aiming to make content moderation policies and statistics publicly accessible. X has challenged this characterization, alleging that the law is designed to pressure social media platforms to “eliminate” content deemed undesirable or harmful by the state, thereby interfering with constitutionally protected speech. This issue highlights the ongoing debate over online content regulation and free speech protections.


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