Considered a border that few were willing to cross, California this week has become one of the few states that have decided to stand up to the big technology companies and increase their regulation. The Democratic Government has promulgated this week a law that obliges to social networks such as Twitter and Meta (Facebook) to reveal their comment moderation and censorship policies. This as a way to combat misinformation, hate speech and extremism that has been installed in public life in the United States and that has digital channels as the main means of propagation.
The law was born in California as a direct reaction to the seizure of the Capitol in January 2021 by supporters of Donald Trump. The rule requires companies to deliver, beginning in 2024, detailed reports to the California Attorney General’s Office explaining how they moderate online debate. This includes revealing whether surveillance is left to AI, the offense ranking system, and comments removed. Companies that do not provide this information will be fined.
“California will not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and misinformation that threatens our communities and our core values as a country,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement Tuesday.
The initiative has caused the rejection of the industry. “Forcing social networks to share their content moderation policies and strategies in detail is like giving thieves a plan of your house,” said Adam Kovacevich, who chairs the House of Progress, a center-left coalition that includes several technology companies, including Meta and Google. This group does not rule out appealing the state law to the courts because they consider that online regulation threatens the debate on freedom of expression, protected in the first constitutional amendment.
The House of Progress tried to derail the initiative during its legislative process. In a letter sent to the local Senate, the influential group assured that most technology companies already publish periodic reports detailing the censorship actions they have taken and the actions they take to be able to remove the most harmful or extremist speech from their platforms. They consider AB 587, as it is known, to be one more twist.
Written by a local Democratic congressman, Jesse Gabriel, the law had the support of Republicans in the entity. Other conservative strongholds, including Florida and Texas, have presented similar initiatives that aim to limit the power of technology companies. The laws approved in these entities, however, seek to return to social networks right-wing voices that have been censored and expelled in recent years after the seizure of legislative power in Washington. In his opinion, the online debate is tilted to the left, an argument shared by Elon Musk when he announced his intention to buy Twitter.
Gabriel explained to Washington Post that its law is different from those approved in the States mentioned. “We are just asking for more transparency,” he told the national newspaper. “Unless they have something to hide, why would companies be afraid to share such basic information about their consumers and users?” added the congressman. The newspaper assures that there are a hundred similar proposals in state congresses to regulate social networks. The regulation will pick up in 2023 at the local level while the 2024 presidential elections are approaching.
This is not the only controversial proposal in the hands of technology lawmakers. Newsom has until the end of the month to sign what has been called the California Age-Appropriate Design Code, which is intended to make the Internet a friendlier zone for minors. If enacted, the law would raise the wall of privacy for those under the age of 18 residing in the most populous state in the United States. This would force networks to set all configurations to maximum security mode at startup. For example, a stranger could not send a message to a minor. This without the need for parents to expressly enable the ban. Companies must also offer transparent information in a language that children can understand. Nor may they store personal data of minors beyond what is strictly necessary to navigate. Technological companies have also spoken out against this law.
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– Article Written By @Luis Pablo Beauregard from https://elpais.com/tecnologia/2022-09-15/california-exigira-a-las-redes-sociales-detallar-sus-politicas-de-moderacion-de-contenidos.html