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Media Politics

California Considers Making ‘Fake News’ Illegal

Written by Philip Hodges

My first thought was not just about how they’re wanting to censor conservative perspectives. Rather, it was that I wonder if they’re going to include political ads in this law.

Political advertisements are the absolute worst when it comes to false, misleading information – quotes ripped out of context, key details omitted to project a negative image, half-truths, outright lies. And they’re designed specifically to ‘influence the vote.’

And on top of that, they use grainy images of their scowling opponents with a backdrop of overly dramatic instrumental music and a narrator whose voice you might recognize from a psychological thriller trailer.

Political advertisements are truly the epitome of ‘fake news.’

So, I’m wondering if the sponsors of this bill are thinking about political ads. Take a look at the proposed law AB-1104:

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.

Obviously, the intent here is to eradicate anything that they perceive to have contributed to Donald Trump’s win. People absolutely refuse to concede that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. Yes, people hated Trump. But they hated Hillary Clinton more.

What’s not covered in the proposed bill is how they’re going to determine whether something is ‘fake news.’ And also, are they planning to apply this to liberal ‘fake news,’ or just conservative/libertarian/everything-else-not-liberal ‘fake news?’

I can’t imagine that this bill would actually pass. I know that there is some demand for it, fueled largely by the fact that Hillary Clinton is not president. If this were to pass anywhere, it would be in California. But I don’t think we’re quite at that point where a bill like this would pass political muster. It’s too much of a slippery slope.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a civil liberties nonprofit group, stated that this bill is “so obviously unconstitutional, we had to double check that it was real.” Further, they said:

“This bill will fuel a chaotic free-for-all of mudslinging with candidates and others being accused of crimes at the slightest hint of hyberbole, exaggeration, poetic license, or common error. While those accusations may not ultimately hold up, politically motivated prosecutions—or the threat of such—may harm democracy more than if the issue had just been left alone. Furthermore, A.B. 1104 makes no exception for satire and parody, leaving The Onion and Saturday Night Live open to accusations of illegal content. Nor does it exempt news organizations who quote deceptive statements made by politicians in their online reporting—even if their reporting is meant to debunk those claims. And what of everyday citizens who are duped by misleading materials: if 1,000 Californians retweet an incorrect statement by a presidential candidate, have they all broken the law?”

Also, what would this mean for more ‘mainstream’ networks like CNN? They take quotes out of context, make false and misleading statements, and sensationalize current events for ratings. Would they also be included, or would they be the exceptions to the rule?

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Philip Hodges

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