Federal Judge Dismisses X’s Claim of Free Speech Violation in California’s Content Moderation Law

In California, a federal judge has rejected Elon Musk’s endeavor to nullify a state law concerning social media, as initially detailed by The Verge. The state’s AB 587 mandates social companies to disclose their content moderation policies, which Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) argued breached the First Amendment. US District Judge William Shubb stated, “It does not appear that the requirement is unjustified or unduly burdensome within the context of First Amendment law.”

X’s legal team contended that the law was unconstitutional and would result in censorship. AB 587 “has both the purpose and likely effect of pressuring companies such as X Corp. to remove, demonetize, or deprioritize constitutionally-protected speech,” as per the company’s lawsuit filed in September. The company alleged that the law’s “true intent” was to “pressure social media platforms to ‘eliminate’ certain constitutionally-protected content viewed by the State as problematic.”

However, Judge Shubb had a different perspective. He stated, “The reports required by AB 587 are purely factual.” He also added, “The reporting requirement merely requires social media companies to identify their existing content moderation policies, if any, related to the specified categories.”

Shubb concluded that California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta successfully demonstrated that the law was “reasonably related to a substantial government interest in requiring social media companies to be transparent about their content moderation policies and practices so that consumers can make informed decisions about where they consume and disseminate news and information.”

It has been a tumultuous year for X under Musk’s ownership. The company underwent a name change, hired a new CEO, introduced a sassy AI chatbot, reinstated a notorious conspiracy theorist, and incurred financial losses as the advertising industry became apprehensive about brands being associated with content from Nazi sympathizers. Additionally, the EU has initiated formal infringement proceedings against the company previously known as Twitter.