California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he has signed a first-of-its kind social media transparency measure to protect Californians from hate and disinformation spread online. Bill 587 was proposed by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D – Encino) and is called “Social media companies: terms of service”. The law requires social media companies to report data on their enforcement of the policies.
Obviously, this bill, which has been signed into law by Governor Newsom, provides protection to people who live in California. It does not to cover people who do not live in California.
This is, in some ways, similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which became law in 2018. It gave Californians the right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared; the right to delete personal information collected from them (with some exceptions); the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information; and the right to non-discrimination for exercising their CCPA rights.
“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,” said Governor Newsom. “Californians deserve to know how these platforms are impacting our public discourse, and this brings much-needed transparency and accountability to the policies that shape the social media content we consume every day. I thank Assemblymember Gabriel for championing this important measure to protect Californias from hate, harassment and lies spread online.”
The Verge reported that Governor Newsom signed a law aimed at making web platforms monitor hate speech, extremism, harassment, and other objectionable behaviors. The Governor signed it after it passed the state legislature last month, despite concerns that the bill might violate First Amendment speech protections.
According to The Verge, AB 587 requires social media companies to post their terms of service online, as well as submit a twice-yearly report to the California Attorney General. The report must include details about whether the platform defines and moderates several categories of content including “hate speech or racism,” “extremism or radicalization,” “disinformation or misinformation,” “harassment,” and “foreign political interference.”
The law also requires social media companies to offer details about automated content moderation, how many times people viewed content that was flagged for removal and how the content was handled. AB 587 fits well with AB 2273, which is intended to tighten regulations for children’s social media use.
Personally, I think that AB 587 is a great idea. It might be exactly the push that social media companies need in order for them to actually remove hate speech, racism, extremism, misinformation, and everything else the bill requires. It would be great if social media companies removed the accounts of people who are posting threats of violence and/or engaging in harassment on their platform.
I remember when Twitter was brand new, and we all had less characters to use to say something. Back then, it was easy to find like-minded people who were also on Twitter. (For me, it was mostly fellow podcasters). I’d love to see Twitter go back to the good old days.