A California State Senator has introduced a new bill that would require any news posted on the Internet in California to be pre-approved by state-sanctioned fact-checkers. The bill, SB 1424 was introduced in the State Senate by Sacramento Democrat, Richard Pan as The “Online False Information Act,” which purports to combat an epidemic of “fake news.”
Since Pan’s bill was introduced on April 4, many concerned citizens have already objected to the language of the proposed bill and observed that Pan’s legislation is at best a clumsy and feeble attempt to usurp the First Amendment rights of American citizens and silence and stifle independent publishers and bloggers.
Commentators that have laughed at nutty California legislation in the past will certainly have plenty to laugh about when they read the details of this ridiculously impractical bill. But despite the astonishing nuttiness of the proposal and the draconian over reach the legislation embodies, this is a scary piece of legislation on a number of levels. State sponsored censorship is no laughing matter.
According to Senator Pan’s announcement, “the bill will “require any person who operates a social media, as defined, Internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The goal of Senate Bill 1424 is purportedly “to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories, by the utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories, providing outreach to social media users, and placing a warning on a news story containing false information.”
However, the real goal of SB 1424 may be to shield Senator Pan from criticism about his questionable policies and tactics.
Pan’s bill is plagued by a host of problems that make it both, impractical, unworkable and more importantly, illegal.
First, it second guesses publishers who regularly check facts in the articles they publish, as a matter practice, and would substitute the judgment of state employees that are not familiar with the facts, and have no expertise in the subject of the article. This would place an unnecessary burden on independent publishers and journalists.
● SB 1424 is a Monumental Waste of resources: it would apply to anyone who blogs about something as mundane as a picnic at the dog park. Senator Pan’s bill would require fact checkers to determine the facts about the dog park picnic to protect Californians from alleged fake news, placing an unnecessary burden on casual Internet posters to hire a fact checker for. However a significant benefit of the bill will accrue to out of state web hosting companies, when California website operators move their web servers to other states or countries.
The Accountability Problem:
● The bill does not identify who will conduct the fact checking, and who will fact check the fact checkers. It also does not provide any provision that would apply to situations where there is a disagreement about the factual veracity of any issue, which suggests the process would be biased and corrupted.
● Constitutional Issues.
The bill as written would violate both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution, denying journalists, and citizens freedom of speech and expression. If SB 1442 advances in the State Senate, and is enacted a Constitutional challenge is all but inevitable.
So Called “Fake News” is not the big problem that Senator Pan makes it out to be. Internet users still have the freedom to decide for themselves what is legitimate news and what is fake, and the last thing they need is the state government to decide this for them.
Senator Pan’s bill would take away that right and limit their choice of what or who to believe.
It has never been Government’s business to monitor the press, and it never should be. With vigilance by the independent press and the public, legislation like this should be summarily rejected.
So-Called Fake News is far less of a problem than the fascist tactics of
State Senator Pan and his pharmaceutical industry supporters. This bill as written poses a serious threat to democracy, freedom of the press and freedom of choice.
Perhaps the State of California should mandate a warning label on all of Senator Pan’s communications to warn Californians that he does not respect their First Amendment rights, nor does he respect the U.S. and California Constitutions, which absolutely forbid state-sanctioned censorship.
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