California governor signs law requiring social media to post moderation rules

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: California Governor Gavin Newsom has sign a law to require web platforms to monitor hate speech, extremism, harassment and other objectionable behavior. Newsom signed AB 587 after it was passed by the state legislature last month, despite concerns that the bill could violate First Amendment speech protections. AB 587 requires social media companies to post their terms of service online, as well as submitting a semi-annual report to the State Attorney General. The report must include details on whether the platform defines and moderates multiple categories of content, including “hate speech or racism”, “extremism or radicalization”, “disinformation or misinformation”, harassment and “foreign political interference”. It should also provide details about automated content moderation, the number of times people viewed content flagged for removal, and how the flagged content was handled. It’s one of several recent California plans to regulate social media, including AB 2273, which seeks to strengthen regulations around children’s use of social media.

Newsom’s office called the law “the first measure of social media transparency” aimed at combating extremism. In a statement, he said “California will not sit idly by as social media is armed to spread hate and misinformation that threatens our communities and core values ​​as a country.” But the transparency measures are similar to several other proposals, including parts of two laws currently blocked in Texas and Florida. (Ironically, the other parts of these bills seek to prevent companies from removing conservative content that often violates hate speech and misinformation rules.) Courts have not 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 Depending on how they’re defined, they could force companies to disclose unpublished rules that help bad actors outsmart the system. And the bill singles out specific categories of “horrible but legal” content — like racism and disinformation — that are harmful but often constitutionally protected, potentially putting a thumb up the speech scale.

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