California Bill That Would Force Online Publishers To Fact-check Their Claims Via State Sources Could Kill Free Speech

By Fattima Mahdi Truth Theory

Senator Richard Pan has proposed a bill in the state of California that would place restrictions on social media outlets,  the legislation would force online publishers to filter their content using state-approved fact checkers before posting. The bill is titled “SB1424. Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan.” Details of bill are as follows:

“This bill would 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 bill would require the plan to include, among other things, a plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories, 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.”

(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.

Indeed the spread of fake news has important implications for society and more needs to be done to regulate the news we are exposed to. However, if the state is given the power to dictate what we read online, it may kill free speech. If we hear different views on a controversial topic and disagree with those views, we should be encouraged to share our own. Unfortunately, if California’s proposed bill goes ahead, it could stifle that freedom.

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