Elon Musk’s X sues California over new social media transparency laws
X argues that a proposed assembly bill violates its free speech rights under the first amendment.
X, formerly known as Twitter, has filed a lawsuit against the state of California over its new social media transparency laws. The company contends that Assembly Bill 587 infringes upon its First Amendment free speech rights as established in both the US Constitution and California's state constitution.
In a complaint submitted to a federal court in Sacramento, California, X asserts that the law's true intention is to exert pressure on social media platforms to remove content that the state deems objectionable. This, according to X, amounts to California compelling companies to adopt the state's stance on politically charged issues, essentially constituting a form of coerced speech.
Elon Musk, who describes himself as a "free speech absolutist," acquired Twitter for $44 billion in October. Musk is also at the helm of the electric car company Tesla and the space exploration venture SpaceX.
The office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, responsible for enforcing state laws, has not yet responded to requests for comment regarding the lawsuit.
Assembly Bill 587 mandates that larger social media companies issue semiannual reports detailing their content moderation practices, including data on objectionable posts and their handling. The law also requires these companies to provide copies of their terms of service, with potential civil fines of up to $15,000 per violation per day for non-compliance.
California's Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed the law in September, asserting that the state would not allow social media to be used as a tool for spreading hate and disinformation.
Jesse Gabriel, an assembly member and the bill's author, commented in a statement, "If Twitter has nothing to hide, then they should have no objection to this bill." He emphasized that Assembly Bill 587 is solely a transparency measure, requiring companies to be transparent about their content moderation practices without imposing specific content moderation policies. This is why the bill received strong bipartisan support.
Musk implemented substantial layoffs at Twitter after his acquisition, and on Monday, he attributed a 60% decline in US advertising revenue to critics, including the ADL, which is mounting a campaign against Musk. In a recent interview, AJ Brown, who resigned as X's head of brand safety and ad quality in June, noted that a recent policy change, which reduced the visibility of objectionable posts on X instead of removing them, posed challenges in convincing advertisers that the platform was safe.