Bipartisan Measure to Hold Social Media Companies Accountable for Online Hate and Disinformation Passes State Assembly

Legislation Will Require Social Media Companies to Publicly Disclose Corporate Policies and Key Metrics Regarding Online Hate, Disinformation, and Extremism

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA — Following yesterday’s announcement of his appointment as Chair of the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) successfully passed bipartisan legislation to regulate social media companies through the California State Assembly.

The first-of-its-kind measure, known as the Social Media Transparency and Accountability Act of 2021 (or Assembly Bill (AB) 587), would require social media platforms to publicly disclose their corporate policies regarding online hate, disinformation, extremism, harassment, and foreign interference, as well as key metrics and data regarding the enforcement of those policies.

“Californians are becoming increasingly alarmed about the role of social media in promoting hate, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and extreme political polarization,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel. “It’s long past time for these companies to provide real transparency into their content moderation practices. The public and policymakers deserve to know when and how social media companies are amplifying certain voices and silencing others. This is an important first step in a broader effort to protect our democracy and better regulate social media platforms.”

In recent years, Twitter, along with other social media platforms, has been implicated as a venue for hate groups to grow. More recently, investigations have shown that the violent riots at the Capitol in early January of this year were abetted and encouraged by posts on social media sites. Despite widespread concerns, efforts by social media companies to self-police have been widely criticized as “grossly inadequate.”

AB 587 would address this troubling lack of transparency by requiring platforms to file semi-annual reports disclosing: (1) their corporate policies on hate speech, disinformation, extremism, harassment, and foreign political interference; (2) their efforts to enforce those policies; and (3) any changes to their policies or enforcement practices. AB 587 also would require quarterly reports disclosing key metrics and data regarding such content, including the number of pieces of content, groups, and users flagged for violation; the method of flagging (e.g., human reviewers, artificial intelligence, etc.); the number of actions; and the type and content of action flagged.

“This legislation would move us closer to holding social media companies accountable for the hate and harassment they allow on their platforms, particularly when that hate and harassment leads to violence,” says Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “The reporting requirements outlined in the bill will put big tech’s conduct under a bright light, and it is our hope that social media companies would either respond by improving their corporate policies and the enforcement of those policies or that the reporting requirements would provide enough evidence for legal action against them if real progress is not made.”

AB 587 is expected to be heard in Senate policy committees in the coming weeks.