judge smacks down elon musks bid to skirt content moderation law

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A federal judge this week told Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter, that Musk likely can’t avoid complying with a California law that requires the social media company to disclose how it moderates content on the platform.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the measure, known as Assembly Bill 587, more than a year ago, with the goal of helping to cut down on misinformation and hate speech online.

Social media companies that generate more than $100 million in gross revenue are required to submit their first content moderation reports to the state on Jan. 1, 2024, covering the third quarter of 2023. The law does not include penalties for companies that are deemed to have failed to make good-faith efforts to moderate certain types of objectionable content. However, penalties may be imposed for failing to file the transparency reports in accordance with the law.

Musk’s X Corp. sued California Attorney General Robert Bonta (D) over the measure in September, arguing that AB 587 was unconstitutional.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Shubb wrote that Musk and X were unlikely to succeed in their challenge, having “failed to establish the likelihood of success on the merits.”

Musk had sought a preliminary injunction while the case proceeds, but the judge declined to order one.

Contrary to the arguments from Musk’s team, Shubb said the law does not interfere with companies’ ability to regulate offensive third-party conduct without fear of liability.

The billionaire tech CEO has endured searing criticism since taking over Twitter, which he renamed earlier this year. Under his leadership, the platform has seen a resurgence of formerly banned far-right personalities, including Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who tormented the parents of school shooting victims.

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