California Senator Dr. Richard Pan has introduced a bill (SB 1424) which currently reads as follows:
Doesn't sound too bad. He wants to look at the problem of false information and try to figure out some solutions. In fact it sounds pretty weak. A study to be completed by the end of 2019 doesn't seem like anything more than a token stab at the problem.
This bill would require the Attorney General, not later than April 1, 2019, to establish an advisory group consisting of at least one member of the Department of Justice, as well as Internet-based social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars to study the problem of the spread of false information through Internet-based social media platforms, and draft a model strategic plan for Internet-based social media platforms to use to mitigate this problem. The bill would require the Attorney General, by December 31, 2019, to present the results of the study and the model strategic plan to the Legislature and specified legislative committees.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
Title 14.5 (commencing with Section 3085) is added to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, to read:
TITLE 14.5. False Information Strategic Plans
The Attorney General shall, not later than April 1, 2019, establish an advisory group consisting of at least one member of the Department of Justice, Internet-based social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars, to do both of the following:
(a) Study the problem of the spread of false information through Internet-based social media platforms.
(b) Draft a model strategic plan for Internet-based social media platforms to use to mitigate the spread of false information through their platforms.
(c) Not later than December 31, 2019, present the results of the study, study and the model strategic plan to the Legislature, pursuant to Section 9795 of the Government Code, and to the Assembly and Senate Committees on Judiciary.
So why then do we have claims like the following, made on a "chemtrail" site, Geoengineering Watch, on June 30, 2018
Source, @11:50 (automated transcript edited for clarity)Continuing an unfolding Orwellian police state, consider this headline from multiple sources. The same corrupt government in California that pushed vaccine mandates now is forming a "fake news authority" to block news sources they don't like. "California to become like Communist China" (from this report) "if passed and signed into law SB 1424 will mandate that California Attorney General create an advisory committee by April 1st 2019 to police the information that's spread via social media and other platforms to determine whether or not it's quote true" the state's Ministry of propaganda will then come up with a plan of attack to eliminate anything that's deemed false. To be clear what is "false" for the power structure is anything that does not support its official narrative, its official lies, transitioning to a headline to further outline the runaway juggernaut of insanity that's the military-industrial complex spiraling completely out of control while the planet goes down in flames
He seems to be referring to an article like this one from a "prepper" site.
There's many other sites that have similar stories, some focus on the vaccine angle, and some just talk about freedom of speech.Pan, who wrote and pushed for the implementation of California’s mandatory vaccine bill, now wants to thwart any dissent over vaccines online. He’s in fact, introduced a bill to stop “online false information.” This would mean that in the state of California, disagreeing with vaccine legitimacy in any way would essentially be illegal.
The reason for all this confusion seems to be a misunderstand of the way the legislative process works. Most of the stories quote this text from an old version of the bill:
Note even this version of the bill is nothing like the draconian characterizations suggested earlier. The worst thing that it requires is a rather vague "Placing a warning on a news story containing false information." The intent here is obviously that sites like Facebook would have fact-checkers look at news stories, and label ones that are false. This is obviously a very hard thing to do, let alone enforce. So this provision was removed from the bill. In fact that entire section was removed from the bill.
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.
California Senate bills go through several revisions before (possibly) coming to a vote. SB-1424 had five versions. The "placing a warning" comes from the second one dated 3/22 (an earlier 2/16 version was actually a placeholder bill that was entirely replace on 3/22). A month after that, on 4/16, all of the requirements to use fact checkers were removed, and the sole requirement placed on site operators was to display a notice saying how they decide what to show people, and if they use fact checkers. Basically asking Facebook to explain the algorithm behind their news-feed.
That was all removed on 5/10/18, replaced with the standard government cop-out: establishing a committee to study the problem, write a report and draft legislation. This was further watered down on 5/25/18, removing all mention of legislation, leaving only the weakest possible version of the bill - to study the problem, and to suggest some actions.
All these version of the bill can be seen on the California Legislative Information web site. You can look at the various version of the bill with the drop-down menu
Each version of the text shows the changes from the previous version in red and struck through, like:
Proposed legislation is not an action of the Government until it's signed into law. It's often just reflecting the desires of one person, and it often starts out badly formed, and impossible to pass. Pan's bill was badly written from the start, with vague language. The first version (putting notices of truefulness on posts) was so obviously unworkable that it was replaced with the version requiring notices. This went further in the legislative process, getting a report from the Senate Judiciary committee on 05/07/18
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billAnalysisClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1424# (also attached) which quite clearly identifies additional problems with the bill, as well as objections from sources like the California Newspaper Publishers Association. For example:
The vagueness of the plan is discussed (remember this is the version that's already watered down from the first attempt that prompted the apocalyptic post from Geoengineering Watch)
With regard to the bill’s requirement that social media Web sites reveal whether or not they employ fact-checkers, CNPA writes:
As a practical matter, it would be nearly impossible to identify all of the practices used in a newsroom to verify facts. Moreover, weeding factual information from false or inaccurate material is the essence of the editorial discretion protected from government interference…
The full analysis is worth reading, but concludes:
This bill would require social media Web sites to disclose their “strategic plan to mitigate the spread of false information.” It is unclear from the bill in print whether this mandates social media Web sites to have such a plan. The bill only says that such a plan must be disclosed. Furthermore, it is not clear from the bill in print what, if anything, the strategic plan must contain.
From a constitutional point of view, it may be better if the bill does not require any specific content in the strategic plan, since any particular requirement for how a social media Web site should mitigate the spread of false information arguably veers into government-mandated censorship. Government censorship does not appear to be the author’s intent. Rather, the author’s goal seems to be to have social media Web sites disclose if and how they mitigate against the spread of false information, leaving the definition of “false information” and the proper steps for mitigating against its spread up to the social media Web site. That presumably includes not doing anything at all.
So no, it's not a censorship bill, not even close. There's nothing specific about vaccines in there (and there never was). The legislature in fact shows great thoughtfulness in how Pan's clumsy attempt was handled. It seems like he meant well, but given the uncertainty and rapid development of the problem, it's was never going to be something that could be solved by heavy handed legislation.
There is broad consensus that the spread of “false information” through social media is a significant concern. As the Comments above suggest, however, there are tremendous practical and constitutional complexities to addressing the problem. The author is fully aware of these concerns and, at the same time, determined to find a solution. While it is always less satisfying than pressing forward with legislation, this may be an instance in which the size, importance, and complexity of the issue lends itself most appropriately to stepping back and consulting with stakeholders and experts at greater length, so as to be able to craft a careful and effective remedy to this important problem.
Even at its worst, the legislation was nothing like "policing the information that's spread via social media and other platforms to determine whether or not it's quote true". Right now it's nothing - do a study, report back end of 2019. By then everything will have changed again.
UPDATE: Vetoed by Governor Gerry Brown as not necessary.