(The Hill) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) has signed into law a social media transparency measure that he says protects residents from hate and disinformation posts spread through social media platforms.
Senate Bill AB 587 will require social media companies to publicly post their policies regarding hate speech, disinformation, harassment, and extremism on their platforms, and report data on their enforcement of the policies.
The newly signed legislation will also require platforms to file semiannual reports to the state’s attorney general’s office that will disclose their policies toward hate speech, extremism, and disinformation.
The state’s attorney general’s office is also required “to make all terms of service reports submitted pursuant to those provisions available to the public in a searchable repository on its official internet website.”
Senate Bill AB 587 was first introduced by state Rep. Jesse Gabriel (D) and was co-authored by a group of state representatives including Buffy Wicks (D), Jordan Cunningham (R), and state senators Richard Pan (D), Henry Stern (D), and Scott Weiner (D).
“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,” Newsom said in a statement. “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.”
“Social media has created incredible opportunities, but also real and proximate threats to our kids, to vulnerable communities, and to American democracy as we know it,” Gabriel said in a statement. “This new law will finally pull back the curtain and require tech companies to provide meaningful transparency into how they are shaping our public discourse, as well as the role of social media in promoting hate speech, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and other dangerous content. I am grateful to Governor Newsom for signing this bill and for his leadership in protecting kids and vulnerable communities online.”
The new bill is among the latest in a push by state lawmakers to implement legislation on social media companies. Last week, the state’s legislature passed the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, which will require social media companies to consider the physical and mental health of minors who use their platforms.
According to the Washington Post, several big tech companies and tech industry trade groups have filed lawsuits in Texas and Florida in an attempt to block similar social media regulatory laws enacted in those states.
The bill has also raised concerns from legal experts, citing First Amendment and free speech as their main issues.
“The bill is likely to be struck down as unconstitutional at substantial taxpayer expense. The censorial consequences should trigger the highest level of constitutional scrutiny, but the undue burdens and lack of consumer benefit ensures it won’t survive even lower levels of scrutiny,” Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman wrote in a blog post. “As my blog post mentions, there are several other bases for constitutional challenges.”
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