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Big Tech must prove content controls are effective or face $15,000 daily fines in California

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News Tech: Today, California Governor Gavin Newsom enacted what its author, California Congressman Jesse Gabriel, described as “the toughest large corporate transparency measure” in the world. AB-587 was designed in direct response to the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol building, calling for “grossly inappropriate” self-regulation of hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories on social media platforms, intended to hold big tech companies like Meta accountable.

“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,” Gabriel said in a press release detailing his nearly two-year battle to pass the law. “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 and addressing hate speech, disinformation, and dangerous conspiracy theories”. A representative for Newsom told Ars that the governor has no further comment.

California law passed requires social media companies to publish their policies and publicly file quarterly law enforcement reports with the California Attorney General. If a company fails to comply with the law, it risks being fined “up to $15,000 per day for each offense” by the Attorney General or a designated prosecutor. By passing this law, California hopes to become a leader in Big Tech regulation. State lawmakers said they want to make it easier to implement effective policy mitigating harms caused by abusive online content by learning directly from social media companies “more about the methods of content moderation and how successful they are,” according to a description of the bill shared during Senate Floor Analyses.

Gabriel and Meta did not immediately respond to Ars` request for comment. According to Gabriel, the bill almost completely stalled in 2021 due to “fierce opposition from major social media companies and their trade associations”. Reuters reported that tech companies are likely to criticize the law, and Ars` review of the Senate Floor Analyses confirmed that a coalition of eight “technology and business associations, including the California Chamber of Commerce and TechNet,” opposed the bill during the pivotal Senate vote that led to the law passing.

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