Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon said Wednesday that the satire outlet, podcaster Tim Pool, and Minds, Inc. filed a lawsuit against California’s attorney general, alleging a new law regulating social media companies violates the First Amendment.
In a Substack post, Dillon wrote that the plaintiffs filed the complaint against California Attorney General Rob Bonta to stop state officials from enforcing AB 587, a new law that took effect this year that requires social media companies to file quarterly reports detailing content moderation policies with the Attorney General’s Office.
Such content moderation policies include several speech categories the state could label as misinformation/disinformation, extremism/radicalization, and hate speech. Failing to file reports could lead to the state imposing fines for non-compliance.
According to the lawsuit, AB 587 was “written with the express intent to discourage expression” of constitutionally protected viewpoints and failed the vagueness doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires criminal laws to state explicitly and definitely what conduct is punishable.
“If Big Tech is tasked by the state with eliminating hateful or misinformative content, they’ll stuff everything they don’t like into those categories, including opinions, jokes, and even factual statements,” Dillon said. “We’ve already experienced it first hand.”
Last year, Twitter banned The Babylon Bee from the social media platform for an article that jokingly named Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Rachel Levine, a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman, as “Man of the Year.” However, Elon Musk, a vocal fan of The Babylon Bee, restored the account after acquiring the platform.
However, while the former Twitter regime worked actively to censor and ban prominent accounts like the Bee, California lawmakers penned the new law that demands more action from social media companies to silence voices the state considers hate and harassment, claiming many of the deadly attacks nationwide share a common thread on social media.
“They’re linked to social media shooters who are radicalized, often with a toxic brew of white supremacy and extremist ideology, through the incredible power of social media,” California State Senator Jesse Gabriel, author of AB 587, told ABC last year.
“We’re not telling you what to do, but tell policymakers, and tell the public, what you’re doing,” Gabriel added.
Upon signing it into law, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state would “not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country.”
Dillon, however, argued that lawmakers made the law too vague and called it a censorship bill, despite state officials claiming it’s about transparency.
“We need laws that prohibit viewpoint discrimination, not laws that compel it under threat of penalties (and under the guise of good-faith content moderation),” Dillon said.
“It’s a good thing when people are allowed to speak freely,” he added. “It’s a bad thing when Big Tech and the government work together to decide what we’re allowed to say. Why? Because they often get it wrong. Even worse, they get it wrong on purpose.”