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10 Questions For CA Lawmakers On Internet Censorship and SB-1424

by Jeff Powers, published

With all the hubub this week at our nation's capitol over the impact Facebook may have had on the 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections, California lawmakers have issued an internet/social media bill, SB-1424.

Written by State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, the bill aims to control news websites and the content those websites produce and distribute. It would impact only those companies who operate a social media website and who have a physical address or presence in California.

Last week the bill was sent to committee for review.

Here is the text of the bill as taken from the California Legislature website:

SB-1424 Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan.

(a) Any person who operates a social media Internet Web site with physical presence in California shall develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Internet Web site.

(b) The strategic plan shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following: (1) A plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories. (2) The utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories. (3) Providing outreach to social media users regarding news stories containing false information. (4) Placing a warning on a news story containing false information. (c) As used in this section, “social media” means 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.

10 Questions for Lawmakers

The bill raises many questions including 1st amendment protections. Based on the outline from the text of the bill, the following questions should be asked of lawmakers:
  1. Who is responsible for writing the "strategic plan?"
  2. Who is the gatekeeper of truth?
  3. What is the criteria for who gets hired as "fact-checkers" for story verification?
  4. How is this enforced?
  5. Who is responsible for outreach to social media users?
  6. Will this stifle free speech?
  7. Who is in charge of placing "warnings" on a story, and who writes that language?
  8. Does the business incur the legal fees associated with the application of these new regulations?
  9. Does the business incur the legal fees associatied with any legal action taken against it due to these new regulations?
  10. Will a legal liability be created for failure to correct false information?

First Amendment Attorney's Respond

An attorney at a firm in San Diego who specializes in first amendment cases did not want to be identified. He did tell IVN San Diego by phone that he was, "outraged by the overreach this bill represents," he continued, "in all likelihood this bill will never make it into law, but the fact it's even been drafted is concerning." On Fox Business former New Jersey Superior Court judge Andrew Napolitano said of Pan's bill, "This is censorship the likes of which I haven't seen in law since World War 2 where the government censored certain speech that it thought was dangerous to national security. The last time in history I saw something like this was that time period." IVN has contacted California State Senator Dr. Pan for his thoughts on his bill. He has not yet responded to our inquiries.

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