Minds, The Babylon Bee, and Tim Pool file lawsuit against California censorship law

On First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.

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Free-speech friendly platform Minds, satirical site The Babylon Bee, and podcaster Tim Pool have filed a First Amendment lawsuit against California’s bill AB 587, which is aimed at combating online “disinformation.”

According to the lawsuit, AB 587 was “written with the express intent to discourage expression” of viewpoints that are protected by the constitution’s First Amendment.

The suit further alleges that the bill does not pass the vagueness test under the Fourteenth Amendment because it does not make it clear what types of speech are not allowed.

The plaintiffs noted the bill has broad categories that are not specifically defined, such as “racism,” “hate speech,” “radicalization,” “extremism,” “misinformation,” “disinformation,” and “foreign political interference.”

The lawsuit states:

“AB 587’s proponents have repeatedly acknowledged that it would be unconstitutional for California to mandate censorship of the type of speech AB 587 regulates. However, this law, which is explicitly designed to chill constitutionally protected speech based on viewpoint, still violates the First Amendment. At the same time, AB 587 does not define terms such as ‘disinformation,’ ‘hate speech,’ and ‘extremism,’ creating an overbroad definition, leading to overly broad enforcement powers in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“Plaintiffs in this action are an emerging social media network and two prominent social media users. AB 587 is a direct attack on Plaintiff Minds, Inc.’s business model, expansion plans, and ability to attract investment. Meanwhile, Plaintiffs Tim Pool and The Babylon Bee LLC have tens of millions of online followers. All three Plaintiffs have significant followings in California, across the rest of the country, and around the world. If AB 587 is not blocked, Plaintiffs stand to lose their hard-won audiences under the weight of California’s unconstitutional experiment in speech regulation. Unlike some of AB 587’s proponents, Governor Newsom and Attorney General Bonta have been candid about the legislation’s goal: to prevent Plaintiffs’ perspectives from reaching Californians. Plaintiffs cannot stand idly by while California chills their speech rights.”

We obtained a copy of the complaint for you here.

“California will not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country,” Newsom said at the time the bill was introduced.

Proponents of the bill argue that its purpose is to make social media platforms more transparent on issues related to disinformation and hate speech.

However, CEO of the Chamber of Progress, Adam Kovacevich, said at the time: “It’s like requiring a bookstore to report to the government which books it carries, or requiring the New York Times to explain which stories it publishes.”

A similar law in New York was blocked by a federal judge.

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