California's Ministry of Truth
Published: 2018-06-28

In February, Californian State Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) introduced  Senate Bill 1424; a law which would require the California Attorney General to create a new advisory committee. The advisory committee would be required to study how false information is spread online and come up with a plan for social-media platforms to fix the "problem." The committee would also determine what is “fake news."  

The law is being presented as a Consumer Protection matter. The Legislative Counsel's Digest starts its analysis of the SB 1424 with,

"Existing law prohibits a person, among others, from making or disseminating in any advertising device, or in any manner or means whatever, including over the Internet, any statement concerning real or personal property or services that is untrue or misleading, as specified."  

The particulars of Dr. Pan’s “model strategic plan" originally included: (1) The utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories; (2) Providing outreach to social media users regarding news stories containing false information; and (3) Placing a warning on a news story containing false information.

“Social media” is broadly defined as "an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations” so the fact-checkers would have plenty to do. 

Dr. Pan wants to protect Consumers from Fake News with an army of fact-checkers

After the collapse of an earlier attempt in the State Assembly to criminalize "false news" in elections (AB 1104 Assembly member Ed Chau D-49th Dist.), Pan realized that his grand scheme of controlling internet content might not be all hatched in one fell swoop. So he modified the bill's language. He struck a plan for potential legislation "for mitigating the spread of false information"  but he left in the mandate to "Draft a model strategic plan for Internet-based social-media platforms to use".

Dr. Pan's bill would impose onerous costs on individuals and businesses alike and would subject dissenting views to censorship via an army “fact-checkers.”  SB 1424 is a bad idea.


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Author(s): David Merlin
Title: California's Ministry of Truth
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Published: 2018-06-28
First posted on CODOH: June 28, 2018, 7:20 p.m.
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