The State of California is looking to become the first state to try and ban so-called “fake news,” but the move has free speech advocates worried that the rules can only end up quashing the First Amendment, not to mention serve to outlaw anything conservative.
A bill was filed this week in the State Assembly’s Committee on Privacy and Consumer Affairs that some say will make it a crime simply to be wrong on the Internet, HeatStreet.com reported.
The bill would actually make it “unlawful” to “knowingly” publish false stories. But more telling, it is also specifically aimed at stopping people from writing about politicians.
18320.5. It is unlawful for a person to knowingly and willingly make, publish or circulate on an Internet Web site, or cause to be made, published, or circulated in any writing posted on an Internet Web site, a false or deceptive statement designed to influence the vote on either of the following:
(a) Any issue submitted to voters at an election.
(b) Any candidate for election to public office.
The law brings more questions than answers.
How does one prove that someone “knowingly” published false news about someone? And who is to judge exactly when something is “illegal” fake news instead of just satire, or when some one is simply exaggerating without necessarily being malicious? Further, who doesn’t think this will be an excuse for liberal politicians to quash the free speech of political opponents — most of whom will be conservatives?
And will so-called mainstream news outlets like CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, the LA Times and the like be held to the same standard as BizPacReview, Breitbart News or conservative talk show hosts?
Further, how far do California lawmakers think they can reach with this law? Do they imagine they have the power to attack someone who is based in Chicago or New York?
Finally, it should be noted that our founding fathers were specifically targeting political speech when they made the First Amendment. They didn’t think just any speech was fair game, but they specifically wanted to make sure that no American was afraid to speak out against a politician or government for fear that authorities would come to take them away.
Free political speech, yes, even the calumnies and name calling, was what they intended to protect above all other speech.
This bill in California goes against the very grain of our founding.
Fortunately, as Heat Street noted, opposing legislators see major red flags with the bill, including some on the liberal side of the aisle.
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