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California third state to pass social media law

Technology for Lawyers

Published: January 13, 2023

California has become the third state to pass a law restricting social media companies’ behavior, following Florida and Texas.
Of course, Cali’s law is a bit different from the other two. They all have to do with regulating content moderation, but, of course, their approaches are far different from one another.
The California law is the “Content Moderation Requirements for Internet Terms of Service” (AB 587), which goes into effect on January 1, 2024. It requires social media companies to disclose their processes for taking down or managing content and users on their platforms.
The Texas and Florida laws also address content takedowns and moderation but also restrict putative viewpoint restrictions (based on the fiction that, somehow, social media algorithms discriminate against “conservative” viewpoints. Every study shows that they do not do so. There are no such algos in major social media companies).
Both the Texas and Florida laws are in litigation over First Amendment contentions, and neither has taken effect yet. Both also run into Sec. 230 questions. Decisions in the 5th and 11th Circuits have split on the two laws, so the Supremes loom. I’m not going to get into details—you can look them up if you’re interested.
The California law, of course, may also run into First Amendment and Sec. 230 problems, but it does not, in and of itself, restrict content, or attempt to non-restrict content, on any platform.
AB 587 requires social media companies (whose definitions under the Act are very broad) to include in their posted TOS contact info for users to ask a human about the TOS (good idea); description of the platform’s content moderation policies; and a list of potential actions the platform could take against prohibited content.
Social media companies are required to file a report with the AG every six months detailing the Terms of Service and any changes to the TOS. Violations can get a $15,000 fine per event.
The new law does not give a private right of action, however. Any violations or alleged violations have to go through the Cali AG’s office.
There’s no indication anywhere of the costs involved in creating a different TOS for every social media company in every distinct state, but those legislators don’t care. Apparently.