California Gov. Newsom signs bill to force social media platforms to censor and suppress certain content

Democrats have increasingly demanded the censorship and suppression of content on social media platforms that they disagree with, and some are now celebrating state legislation that would have that exact effect.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) just signed into law a bill that would force social media platforms to be transparent about their policies and actions with regard to alleged “hate speech” and “disinformation,” among other things, The Hill reported.

Critics, however, suggest that the law will do nothing to help consumers, will impose undue burdens on the companies, and will result in even more censorship and suppression of certain content on social media — which is likely the underlying goal of the Democratic legislation.

California to crack down on social media content

At issue here is California’s AB 587 that, according to The Hill, would require social media companies to publicly post their terms of service policies with regard to “hate speech, disinformation, harassment, and extremism.”

The bill would also require the companies to submit detailed semi-annual reports to the California attorney general on what the policies were and what, exactly, had been done to enforce those policies. Further, the attorney general was likewise required to make all of that information publicly available in a searchable database, and civil penalties can be applied to companies that fail to fully comply.

“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,” Gov. Newsom said in a statement as he signed the bill into law on Tuesday. “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.”

Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D), who championed the bill, said in the statement, “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.”

“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,” he added. “I am grateful to Governor Newsom for signing this bill and for his leadership in protecting kids and vulnerable communities online.”

Law is likely unconstitutional

The Hill noted that AB 587 has received pushback from free speech advocates and legal experts, including some on the left who have critically opposed Republican efforts to regulate and force transparency measures on social media platforms, albeit from a different point of view than California’s effort.

Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, wrote in a recent blog post that California’s AB 587 was a “terrible” and likely unconstitutional idea, namely because it would have “censorial consequences,” was “unduly burdensome” on the companies, and wouldn’t actually do anything to help consumers and platform users.

“The bill is likely to be struck down as unconstitutional at substantial taxpayer expense,” the law professor concluded. “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.”

Let us all hope, for the sake of freedom of speech and opposition to government and corporate tyranny, that the professor is correct and that this censorious effort to burden social media companies and suppress content Democrats find unfavorable will be summarily rejected by the federal courts.

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