X Corp. sues California to keep its secret sauce from the users - The UpStream

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X Corp. sues California to keep its secret sauce from the users

posted Sunday Sep 10, 2023 by Scott Ertz

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, things have been chaotic, to say the least. Between name changes, policy changes, and a nearly complete employee change, keeping up with what's going on can be a challenge. One thing that was promised upon takeover was that the new Twitter, which is now called X, would be open, transparent, and less regulated. That hasn't exactly been the reality, and California's content moderation law AB 587 looks to force open the doors revealing the way social networks, including X, work inside.

Content moderation and Twitter/X

One of the most prominent promises made by Elon Musk during the campaign to purchase Twitter was that it would become a more open and transparent network. Accounts that had been suspended or banned under the old ownership because of content violations that did not violate the law would be restored. This meant that those who flouted political policies, from small accounts with no followers to the former President would be restored to their former state.

The restoration was completed in fairly short order, and the content moderation team was gutted. However, content moderation didn't exactly stop. In some cases, accounts that spoke ill of Musk himself or revealed information about him were suspended. This included the account that tracked Musk's personal jet. Others who violated the old rules that had theoretically been retired upon purchases were suspended or suppressed. This included The Daily Wire, which premiered the documentary What is a Woman? on Twitter.

Clearly, there are still rules in place, but no one quite knows what they are. Sometimes issues, like The Daily Wire are resolved and things are returned to normal, while @ElonJet is still suspended.

California content moderation bill

Of course, Twitter/X is far from the only platform with unknown content moderation rules. YouTube has long been condemned for its unknowable and ever-changing rules and regulations, and rules that are not evenly applied.

Because of this landscape in the online world, where companies thrive and profit off of the content produced by individuals, while also punishing those individuals for creating content that is against rules that they cannot know, California has created AB 587. This law would require that social networks and other sites that promote themselves as platforms reveal the internal rules, policies, and procedures which govern their content moderation. Platforms would be fined $15,000 per violation per day for not fully disclosing their policies in their Terms of Service.

A lawsuit against the state of California

X Corp. has filed a lawsuit against the State of California looking to block Attorney General Robert Bonta from enforcing the law. The lawsuit claims that the law, as written, could create scenarios in which platforms will be compelled by the State to block or ban content that is protected by the First Amendment.

They also claim that the law violates a federal law which has long governed the rules of the web. According to the complaint,

Because AB 587 imposes liability on such actions if they are taken without the required disclosures, AB 587 is preempted by the broad immunity afforded by Section 230.

Section 230 has created a lot of opportunity for companies that run platforms, but it has also given others a shield with which to protect their actions. In the case of this law, requiring disclosure would not change the policies and procedures of the companies, nor would it likely compel the companies to change them. That is, unless the company is doing something that the public would be unhappy about. As such, the policy changes would be forced upon the platform by the users rather than the government.


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