LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A California state lawmaker wants to make it against the law to publish and spread so-called “fake news” that could potentially impact a political race.

Assembly Bill 1104, known as “The California Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act”, would amend the state elections code to add this language:

“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.”

The legislation introduced by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D – Monterey Park) does not specify how the law would be enforced or any potential penalties that would be incurred, but it appears to be aimed at the “fake news” factor that many believe impacted the 2016 presidential election.

Privacy advocates like Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have warned the bill could result in “a chaotic free-for-all of mudslinging with candidates and others being accused of crimes at the slightest hint of hyperbole, exaggeration, poetic license, or common error.”

“At a time when political leaders are promoting ‘alternative facts’ and branding unflattering reporting as “fake news,’ we don’t think it’s a good idea to give the government more power to punish speech,” the EFF said in a statement.

Under the proposed bill, comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live” and satire sites like “The Onion” could be accused of illegal content since the legislation makes no distinction for such genres, according to the EFF.

AB 1104 was scheduled to be heard Monday by the California Assembly’s Committee on Privacy and Consumer Affairs, but the hearing was subsequently canceled at Chau’s request. It’s status is unclear.

Comments (14)
    1. It’s easy to detect fake news. Anyone who is proposing a bill like this is trying to crush the first amendment and has something to hide. Any news outlet that supports such people will be producing propaganda – i.e., covering for corrupt politicians. All this bill does is show us how corrupt the California government has become. Such a bill is not likely to withstand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court – and politicians who support this bill should not withstand the scrutiny of the electorate in any upcoming election. It’s simple.

      1. Eh, you say it’s “easy to detect fake news”, but so many people fall for it. They’ve done polls on these things; quite a lot of people are reading this stuff and *believing* what they read, because it fits into their emotionally motivated ideologies. It gets into the canon of “common knowledge” and influences peoples decisions and actions. People are being manipulated for profit, and it is harming our democracy.

  1. I get the sentiment, but it’s a bad idea to make “fake news” civilly punishable. Eventually this, like many other powers granted to/forced upon the government will be abused.

    How will Bureaucracy define fake news? What percentage must be fake? Can it just be misleading (i.e. using cherry-picked statistics) or must it have demonstrably incorrect data? What if it’s an opinion piece?

    What happens when the politicians who disagree with the news’ interpretation of, say, gun crime statistics attempt to suppress their opponents using this law or an amended version of it?

    People – stop using government to solve problems.

Leave a Reply