X files lawsuit against California content moderation bill

Credit: Elon Musk/X

X has filed a lawsuit against a California bill requiring social media companies to post and submit moderation information to the state. The company alleges that the legislation has underlying motives that go against the Constitution’s protection of free speech — a common message echoed by leader Elon Musk over the years.

On Friday, Musk reposted a tweet from the X Global Government Affairs account, formally announcing that the social media company has filed a lawsuit against California AB 587.

The bill, signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom last year, mandates that social media platforms post and submit regular terms of service information about how they moderate racism, extremism, disinformation, harassment and foreign political interference to the Attorney General on a semiannual basis.

In the lawsuit, dated September 8, X attorneys argue that, while California has propped up the bill as a “transparency measure” for content moderation, it instead seeks to “pressure companies to eliminate or minimize content that the government has deemed objectionable.”

X’s legal team also alleges that the state is forcing them to take positions on politically charged and controversial terms determined by the state, saying that this violates principles of free speech. Below is an excerpt from section 3 of the lawsuit:

“AB 587 violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 2, of the California Constitution because it 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 that the State deems undesirable or harmful, and places an unjustified and undue burden on social media companies such as X Corp.”

According to AB 587, social media companies must also submit detailed information about how many items are flagged on their platform and how often users viewed and shared the content. Below is an excerpt from AB 587’s introduction paragraph:

“This bill would require a social media company, as defined, to post their terms of service for each social media platform, as defined, owned or operated by the company in a specified manner and with additional specified information, subject to certain exceptions.”

This is far from the first time Musk has shared his views on free speech using X.

Before initiating a deal to purchase the company formerly known as Twitter last spring, Musk shared a poll asking if the company “rigorously adheres” to principles of free speech. Last December, Musk shared the “Twitter Files,” which targeted former executives of the social media company, claiming that they intentionally suppressed free speech. These are just a few examples of Musk’s self-proclaimed “free speech absolutism.”

You can read the full text of California bill AB 587 here, and you can read X’s 35-page lawsuit against the bill here.

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X files lawsuit against California content moderation bill
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