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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
The full analysis is worth reading, but concludes:
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.
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.
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