How Liberal California Compares to Florida, Texas on Social Media Regulation

The dichotomy between blue and red states – in essence California vs. Florida and Texas – has played out in many arenas on many specific issues, including immigration and abortion.

The whole nation will get a full dose of the running conflict next month when California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who’s obsessed with building a national image, debates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a declared 2024 Republican candidate for president, on national television.

Meanwhile, an ironic twist to the rivalry has developed over how the competing states seek to force social media companies, such as X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook, to toe the official line on content that runs afoul of their very different ideological outlooks.

When it reconvened this month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to examine laws in Florida and Texas that would prohibit social media outlets from barring controversial political speech. The laws were enacted after both Facebook and Twitter suspended former President Donald Trump’s account.

The Texas law, now on hold, would classify social media companies as common carriers such as public utilities and require them to disclose their “moderation standards” affecting what they allow to be posted, and declare why they remove certain conduct.

The Florida law – similar in thrust – would prohibit banning certain users, such as journalists or politicians, and require social media companies to explain the rationale for each instance of content moderation.

In both cases, the social media companies say Florida and Texas are attempting to control how they edit their platforms in violation of the Constitution’s right to freedom of speech.

“At bottom, government ‘may not … tell Twitter or YouTube what videos to post; or tell Facebook or Google what content to favor,’” Scott Keller, an attorney for internet trade groups, told the court in a petition.

The issues before the Supreme Court are remarkably similar to a lawsuit filed in federal court this month by X Corp. against California, alleging that a 2022 law violates its free speech right as well.

The law, Assembly Bill 587, also bores into the standards that social media use to moderate content, requiring them to make extensive disclosures to the state Department of Justice. The measure was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and is aimed at pressuring the social media companies to remove what the sponsor deems to be hate speech.

“The line between providing an open forum for productive discourse and permitting the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation is a fine one, and depends largely on the structure and practices of the platform,” Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Woodland Hills Democrat, said in a statement as his bill was being considered.

X Corp. claims that Gabriel’s law violates the First Amendment because it interferes with social media companies’ constitutionally protected editorial judgements, requires them to post terms “dictated by the government,” and pressures them to remove content the state “deems undesirable or harmful.”

Fundamentally, then, while Texas and Florida accuse social media of being too eager to censor inflammatory content, the California law implies that they are not eager enough.

California, meanwhile, has rolled back another censorship law passed last year.

Assembly Bill 2098 threatened doctors with losing their licenses for “unprofessional conduct” if they openly disagreed with officialdom on the nature of COVID-19 or the vaccines used to battle the pandemic.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Bill that Would Make Google, Meta, Twitter and Apple Pay for News Won’t Move Forward This Year

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —A California proposal that would require tech giants, including Google and Facebook, to pay news outlets a fee for posting their content has been shelved for the year, state lawmakers announced Friday.

The bill, known as the California Journalism Preservation Act, is primarily meant to help generate funds for newsrooms across the state. News outlets that collect the fee would be required to spend at least 70% of the money on news journalists and support staff. The bill’s author, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, said the decision to hold off on moving the measure forward this year was meant to give lawmakers more time to work on what would be a first in the nation law.

“My priority is making sure this bill does exactly, and only, what it intends: to support our free press and the democracy sustained by it, to make sure publications get paid what they are owed, and to hold our nation’s largest and wealthiest tech companies accountable for repurposing content that’s not theirs,” Wicks said in a statement Friday.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, recently cleared the Assembly in a 55-6 vote and will be held in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

State Senator Tom Umberg, the chairman of that committee, said in a statement Friday the bill will be heard in his committee in 2024, with an informational hearing on the proposal scheduled for later this fall.

“This interim hearing underscores my commitment to protecting journalism, California journalists, and the access to a free and vibrant press that is essential to our democracy,” Umberg said. “My greatest concern is that we enact legislation that is fair and that the benefits in this bill flow specifically to support local journalists – and in turn, all Californians. I look forward to working with Assemblymember Wicks and my colleagues to help save this foundation of our democracy.”

The update comes as the Computer and Communications Industry Association began running TV ads in Sacramento on June 22 against the measure, calling it a “Link Tax.”

“Income tax, sales tax, gas tax, but now lawmakers are proposing a link tax that would charge websites every time they link to a news article,” the narrator says in the ad. “Experts warn it could undermine the open internet, punish local newspapers while subsidizing hedge funds and big media corporations. Another new tax is the last thing we need.”

Chris Micheli, a professor at the McGeorge School of Law, noted the fee is not a typical tax on an individual Californian, and would not be collected and administered by the state’s government.

“People put things on social media or buy advertising time to try to get the public riled up and so, by calling it something like a link tax, I think the goal is to generate interest in it and maybe people call their legislators to vote yes or no on such a bill,” Micheli said.

Meta, Google, Twitter and Apple are members of the CCIA. The CCIA did not respond to a request for comment on this story as of Friday afternoon.

A spokesman for Meta in May said the company would pull news from Facebook and Instagram if California lawmakers move forward with the proposal.

Click here to read the full article in KCRA

Bill To Punish Social Media Companies For Addictive Features For Minor Users Killed in Senate

‘Social media companies had so much to lose from this bill’

A bipartisan bill that would punish social media companies for having addictive and harmful features for users under the age of 18 was was killed in the Senate on Thursday, ending hopes this year for social media addiction legislation in California.

Assembly Bill 2408, authored by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-Paso Robles) and Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), proposed to hold social media companies responsible for addicting children under the age of 18 to their services and would impose a duty not to addict as well as prohibit the use and sale of a child’s personal data. The bill, also known as the Social Media Platform Duty to Children Act, would allow the legal guardian of the child who suffers injury due to the addiction to sue the companies, which includes a civil penalty of up to $250,000 per violation.

AB 2408 would cover all social media features created before January 2023. Only social media companies that make $100 million or more in gross revenue in the past year would be covered by the bill. Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+ would not be covered, with the same exemption ruling out companies that only offer e-mailing or texting services, as well as services whose primary functions allow users to play video games, due to their everyday and emergency uses.

If it passed, companies would either have had until April of next year to remove the features addictive to those under 18, or conduct regular audits to find any parts of their service being addictive and taking action to not be held liable.

While both Assemblymembers wrote the bill due to studies showing the rise of social media addiction in teensrecent social media company whistleblowers coming forward with information showing how addictive it can be, and growing concern among parental and advocacy groups that social media is growing less safe for kids, social media companies lobbied hard against the bill.

Most notably, Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram), Twitter, Snap (which owns Snapchat), and TikTok spent millions in their individual lobbies due to the potential of losing millions more as well as losing users under the age of 18.

“Social media companies had so much to lose from this bill,” explained Sharon Ireland, a social media consultant, to the Globe on Thursday. “They all agree that addiction is an important issue to tackle, but they also didn’t want to be chopped off at the knees because of it.”

AB 2408 killed in Senate

In May, Assemblyman Cunningham explained that the bill was about protecting kids as no national action or action by the companies themselves had been implemented yet.

“The era of unfettered social experimentation on children is over and we will protect kids,” said Assemblyman Cunningham. “The issue that we’re trying to address is there’s really no incentive for these social media companies to do anything different than what they’ve been doing. D.C. isn’t taking action on this. There’s bipartisan agreement that something needs to happen. But guess what’s coming out of Washington? Nothing. California can lead the way here.”

AB 2408 had an unusual voting record since being introduced this year. While it passed the Assembly and made it through one Senate committee, Republicans and Democrats were with each other on both sides, either voting to pass the bill or not voting on the measure rather than say no. Republicans in favor of social media companies as well as Democrats from the Bay area largely split from those in favor of those taking the more hardline stance of protecting kids online.

Earlier this month the bill was placed on the suspense file. On Thursday, a quick vote killed the bill, ending the effort for at least the rest of the year.

While social media companies celebrated, Cunningham noted that kids would still be harmed in the meantime and said that voters would have likely supported the bill if it was up to them.

“I am extremely disappointed,” said Cunningham. “The bill’s death means a handful of social media companies will be able to continue their experiment on millions of California kids, causing generational harm.”

“This idea would be overwhelmingly supported if presented directly to the voters, as it would be prohibitively expensive for social media companies to take every California voter on a Tech Caucus junket in Napa.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Government Regulation of Social Media Won’t Protect Free Speech

Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to put HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, the former California attorney general with a reputation for being a partisan hack, in charge of “health disinformation” online.

Is it me or does the Facebook whistleblower’s “bombshell” revelations seem like much ado about very little? The company’s former product manager, Frances Haugen, has given the Securities and Exchange Commission and The Wall Street Journal thousands of internal documents that say more about the state of American culture than they do about the social-media company.

“No one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned, right?” Haugen told CBS News. “Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”

If that’s the issue, then one can just as easily blame newspapers, TV news shows, talk radio, and political parties—all of which benefit by stirring the pot. For some reason, people prefer conflict to happy thoughts about puppies (although there are plenty of those posted on Facebook). Do we blame the medium or the human condition?

Haugen shared an internal Facebook survey showing that Instagram increases thoughts of suicide and worsens eating disorders among teens. I would never minimize the tribulations of being a teenager, but Haugen seems woefully naive. Young girls have always compared themselves to the photos of fashion models in magazines. Teens were vicious to one another long before Instagram.

Again, do we blame social media or something deeper? The same goes for commenters who post incendiary information on their Facebook pages. These are platforms, which people use for good or ill. This nonsense reminds me of liberal politicians who blame video games for gun violence and conservative politicians who blame Hollywood movies for an erosion of the nation’s morals.

It’s time to grow up. The problem with the latest hysteria: A rash of new rules and regulations will certainly follow. As The Wall Street Journal noted, Haugen’s testimony before Congress “builds momentum for tougher tech laws.” Of course it does, and conservatives—who will be on the receiving end of whatever passes—will only have themselves to blame.

“(T)he time is ripe for the regime and the digital medium to face a long-overdue just comeuppance,” wrote Josh Hammer in The American Mind, in a typical conservative diatribe against tech firms. Hammer calls for Congress to “rein in the ‘Mountain View-Menlo Park nexus of woke leftist corporatism…lest technocracy vanquish democracy anew.'”

Click here to read the rest of the article on Reason.com