California passes suspect social media transparency law

California passed a law that makes social media companies reveal the details of their policies on hate speech, harassment, extremism, lies and foreign political interference. It also requires the companies to report how they enforce policies. According to Governor Gavin Newsom the law will help combat the way “social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country.” (Fox News, September 14, 2022, by Julia Musto)

Adi Robertson in The Verge, September 14, 2022, writes about the law, “Courts haven’t necessarily concluded that the First Amendment blocks social media transparency rules. But the rules still raise red flags. Depending on how they’re defined, they could require companies to disclose unpublished rules that help bad actors game the system. And the bill singles out specific categories of “awful but lawful” content — like racism and misinformation — that’s harmful but often constitutionally protected, potentially putting a thumb on the speech scale.”

Mike Masnick of techdirt, September 14, 2022, says the law will end up enabling evil doers to design tactics to evade attempts at moderation. It also will require disclosures that could violate protected speech especially since the state Attorney General can take legal action on errors by a website. Masnick argues, “By telling companies they must have policies on these categories of speech (again, all of them are mostly constitutionally protected forms of speech), the government is basically saying “you need to clean up this kind of problematic speech.” This is a wholly different approach than the federal government’s (current) approach with Section 230, which takes a hands off approach, but tells companies they won’t face liability for their decision making.”

For related FAC coverage, click here, here and here.

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