Musk v. Moderation Policies

By: Emma Betz, Staff Writer

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Elon Musk, owner, chairman and Chief Technology Officer of X Corp., recently filed a lawsuit against the state of California, alleging constitutional challenges to California’s Bill mandating the disclosure of content moderation policies.

In September of 2022, the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, approved Assembly Bill No. 587 relating to social media companies and their respective terms of service. The bill states that social media companies are now required to “post their terms of service for each social media platform, as defined, owned or operated by the company in a specified manner with additional specified information, subject to certain exceptions.”[1] Specifically, social media companies are now required to define their terms of service – policies specifying “the user behavior and activities that are permitted on the internet-based service owned or operated by the social media company, and the user behavior and activities that may subject the user or an item of content to being actioned.”[2]

The California Bill further requires social media companies to submit reports on a semiannual basis specifying “the current version of the terms of service for each social media platform owned or operated by the company, specified categories of content and what policies the social media company has for that platform to address that content, and data related to violations of the terms of service for each platform.”[3]

X Corp. acquired Twitter in July of 2023 in an effort to ensure freedom of speech and serve as an accelerant for the everything app.[4] The company subsequently rebranded the social media website as X. In response to the recently enacted California legislation, X Corp. filed suit against the state of California, alleging First Amendment violations pursuant to the enactment of Bill No. 587.[5] Prior to the launch of X in October, Twitter lobbyists voiced their concerns to California lawmakers about the legislation mandating content moderation policies.[6] However, after the Bill’s enactment, X Corp. voiced its concerns with the legislation differently – this time seeking intervention from our legal system. The corporation believes that a Bill mandating social media companies to limit its content violates the Constitution and serves as an attempt to restrict the content the company wishes to allow its users to publish.

X Corp.’s lawsuit addresses the issues that arise from mandating that social media companies limit and prohibit user content. To begin, X Corp. argues that the adoption of the California Bill requires companies like X Corp. to “engage in speech against their will” while removing, demonetizing and deprioritizing “constitutionally protected speech that [California] deems undesirable or harmful.”[7] Furthermore, X Corp. argues that the Bill imposes an undue burden on social media companies to regulate the content that is shared among users on their respective platforms and to publicly share not only policies but also statistics regarding the violations of the terms of service.[8] Rather than promoting transparency, X Corp. argues that Bill No. 587 goes “beyond simple disclosure” and requires companies to share detailed information with the public regarding their content regulation and the evaluation process.[9]

Although California has not yet answered the lawsuit filed by X Corp., it has publicly stated that the complaint is under review and that the state’s plan of action is to respond in court. [10]

[1] California Assembly Bill No. 587, Chapter 269 (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 22675-22681).

[2] Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22675(f).

[3] Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22677(a).

[4] Irina Ivanova, Twitter is Now X; Here’s What That Means, CBS NEWS (July 31, 2023)

[5] Id.

[6] Brian Schwartz, Before Elon Musk, Twitter Rarely Lobbied Against State Laws; Now X is Suing California Over One, CNBC (September 13, 2023),people%20familiar%20with%20the%20effort.


[8] Id.

[9] Eric He, Elon Musk’s X Sues California Over Content Moderation Law, PoliticoPro (September 8, 2023)

[10] Schwartz, supra note 5.

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