Elon Musk’s X Corp. sued California on Friday over California Assembly Bill 587 (AB 587), a state law requiring social media companies to publish their content moderation policies, arguing that the law violates the US Constitution’s First Amendment. The case is in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California Sacramento Division.
X Corp. argues that AB 587 violates the First Amendment because its “true intent is to pressure social media platforms to ‘eliminate’ certain constitutionally-protected content viewed by the state as problematic.” X Corp. asserts that the “First Amendment unequivocally prohibits this kind of interference with a traditional publisher’s editorial judgment.” Additionally, X Corp argues that AB 587 violates the US Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause because it places an “undue, excessive burden on interstate commerce.” Under this clause, states are prohibited from passing laws that unduly burden interstate commerce. For its remedy, X Corp. seeks declaratory and injunctive relief on these grounds.
California Governor Newsom signed AB 587 into law in September 2022. The law mandates that social media companies publish how they moderate certain content on their platforms. This includes how the platform defines and moderates hate speech or racism, extremism or radicalization, disinformation or misinformation, harassment and foreign political interference, as well as information and statistics about actions taken by the platform to moderate these categories. In response to signing the law, Newsom stated:
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. Californians deserve to know how these platforms are impacting our public discourse, and this action brings much-needed transparency and accountability to the policies that shape the social media content we consume every day. I thank Assemblymember Gabriel for championing this important measure to protect Californians from hate, harassment and lies spread online.
Other bodies have also called for social media platforms to publish their moderation policies. In June, the Australia eSafety Commissioner launched legal action against Twitter demanding information about the platform’s strategies to combat online hate. Additionally, earlier this year, US Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Mark Takano (D-CA) urged Musk to address the rise in hate speech on the social media platform since he purchased it in October 2022.