Elon Musk during a technology conference held in Paris last June.GONZALO FUENTES (REUTERS)
Elon Musk’s new pulse on progressive policies. X, the company formerly known as Twitter, has launched a battle against the State of California over a law that requires social networks to make public their internal moderation policies in an effort to reduce hate speech, misinformation, harassment and for eliminating sexual abuse of minors. The technology company has gone to court arguing that the rule promulgated in September 2022 violates the protection of the first constitutional amendment, the right to free expression of ideas —or to remain silent as well— before what the State considers “harmful”. or offensive”.
X filed the lawsuit this Friday in a court in Sacramento, the capital of California. The document argues that the real goal of the rule, known as AB 587, is to “remove” First Amendment content that may be considered problematic. “The issues about which the law requires you to speak against your will are highly controversial and politically charged,” adds the text of the lawsuit. The limits to these themes have been imposed by partisan beliefs, adds the technology. “Social networks are frequently criticized, no matter what they do, by individuals on both sides (Democrats and Republicans), for editorial decisions that can fall into these ill-defined categories,” they point out.
The law was born in California as a reaction to the January 2021 storming of the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump. The norm requires that companies deliver detailed reports to the Prosecutor’s Office starting next January where they make public the measures they take to moderate the online debate. This requires communicating whether surveillance is carried out by artificial intelligence or how offenses or threats are dealt with. Companies that do not provide these reports may be fined.
The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, one of the stars of the Democratic party, had celebrated the approval of this rule. “We will not stand by while social networks are used as weapons to spread hate and misinformation that threatens our communities,” the president said the day he promulgated the law.
This can be seen as another Musk crusade against California, a bastion of progressive politics. The tycoon has maintained a tense pulse with the entity for years due to what he considers an excess of regulation of the entity. This led him to move Tesla’s headquarters from Palo Alto to Texas in 2021. Since then, the businessman has taken advantage of public forums to speak out against the high taxes in the region or to position himself against what he has called the “virus woke” that drives much of the public policy in California.
Analysts and experts have warned of the turn that X has taken since it was acquired by Musk last year for $44 billion. The tycoon assured after the purchase that he would make Twitter a public square where all opinions would be found. Since then, several organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, have warned of the return of users from the radical right, an increase in hate messages and an uptick in online harassment.
Musk this month blamed the Anti-Defamation League for the drop in advertising on the social network. Ad sales on X have fallen 60% since October in the United States, its main market. The arrival at the helm of the company of Linda Yaccarino, a former director of NBCUniversal, who Musk personally chose as CEO to bring back advertisers, has been of little use. The tycoon assures that the non-governmental organization accuses them of being anti-Semitic and has threatened to take legal action.
It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened since Twitter is in the hands of one of the richest men in the world. In June, X sued a center that monitors hate speech on the Internet. This organization, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, had indicated that X was “saturated” with harmful content. This group ensures that the social network does not take any action against 99% of the accounts that publish hate messages and that have the blue subscription mark. This week, X has started another fight in court in his defense.
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