Elon Musk’s X Corp. Challenges California's New Social Media Law

On Friday, a new battlefront emerged in the ongoing tug-of-war over content moderation in the digital sphere.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Elon Musk’s X Corp. Challenges California's New Social Media Law
© Getty Images Entertainment/Dimitrios Kambouris

On Friday, a new battlefront emerged in the ongoing tug-of-war over content moderation in the digital sphere. Elon Musk’s X Corp., which oversees the operation of the platform previously recognized as Twitter, filed a lawsuit against California's attorney general in response to the state’s freshly instituted content moderation law.

California Governor Gavin Newsom ratified bill AB 587 just a year ago. This pivotal piece of legislation mandates social media enterprises to make their terms of service publicly accessible. It further demands the submission of a biannual report to the state attorney general.

This report should comprehensively detail the content moderation strategies employed by the respective platform. A particularly notable stipulation of the law is its requirement for platforms to shed light on their automated content moderation systems.

They must also elucidate their criteria for designating content as “hate speech” or “disinformation” and unveil statistics pertaining to the number of posts flagged or removed under such designations.

Responses from the State Officials

The office of Attorney General Bonta communicated with CNN via email, stating, “While we have not yet been served with the complaint, we will review it and respond in court”.

This highlights the state's readiness to engage in what might be a defining court battle over digital content management. Governor Newsom's viewpoint on the legislation was clear from a statement shared with CNN last September.

He asserted, “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”. Newsom emphasized the necessity for Californians to understand the mechanics behind the digital platforms influencing public discourse, seeing the bill as a step towards achieving transparency and holding social media conglomerates accountable.

Behind X Corp’s Move

Musk's decision to challenge the California law comes amid heightened scrutiny of his stance on content moderation. As the backbone advertising business of his platform grapples with a significant revenue slump, concerns around the platform's moderation policies have emerged as a contentious issue.

Under Musk's aegis, there have been marked shifts in these policies. Noteworthy changes include the halting of enforcement related to Covid-19 misinformation and the reintegration of several previously blacklisted users.

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