Elon Musk’s X Corp., previously known as Twitter, has failed in its legal attempt to overturn a California law aimed at regulating harmful content on social media platforms. According to a recent Bloomberg report, a federal judge in Sacramento dismissed the company’s claim that the law infringes on the free speech rights of social media companies.
The law, signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022, mandates social media companies like X to disclose their content moderation policies. It specifically targets hate speech, disinformation, harassment, and extremism. This move comes in the wake of Musk’s endorsement of antisemitic posts on his platform, which led to significant backlash and the withdrawal of major advertisers like Sony, Discovery, Apple, and CBS.
X Corp. filed a lawsuit in September, arguing that the law’s real purpose was to coerce social media platforms into censoring content deemed problematic by the state. However, U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled that while the law imposes a substantial compliance burden, it does not unjustifiably infringe on First Amendment rights.
The ruling arrives as the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates on similar laws in Florida and Texas, focusing on the free-speech rights of social media companies. The court’s decision, expected by mid-2024, will have significant implications for how social media platforms operate and regulate content.
Musk’s vision and challenges
Since acquiring Twitter for $44 billion in 2022, Musk has championed a “free speech absolutist” approach, reinstating banned users and reducing content moderation. This policy shift has reportedly led to an increase in harmful content on the platform. Musk’s appointment of Linda Yaccarino, a former NBCUniversal ad executive, aims to mend industry partnerships and regain advertiser confidence.
Musk has accused various watchdog groups of causing a decline in U.S. advertising revenue by spreading false claims about the platform’s content. These organizations have refuted Musk’s allegations. Despite Musk’s efforts, the recent court ruling signifies a growing trend toward more stringent regulation of social media content, posing challenges for platforms like X Corp. that advocate for minimal content moderation.