California could be set to launch an advisory group to explore fake news and its effects on people over social media. The group would also be responsible for monitoring online content and then dictating its truthfulness.
A government group choosing what is or is not true, what could go wrong.
The new Senate bill, Senate Bill 1424, would have the California Attorney General form the advisory committee by April of next year. Per CBS News:
It would need to consist of at least one person from the Department of Justice, representatives from social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars.
The advisory group would be required to study how false information is spread online and come up with a plan for social media platforms to fix the problem. The Attorney General would then need to present that plan to the Legislature by December 31, 2019. The group would also need to come up with criteria establishing what is “fake news” versus what is inflammatory or one-sided.
Following the 2016 presidential election, the FBI reported that Russian entities used social media platforms to pose as American citizens and shared content relevant to the election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
As a result, members of Congress questioned whether the news stories shared over social media had far-reaching and unintended consequences. Some even claimed false articles and reports could have swayed the election and they invited social media leaders to testify before congressional committees.
The social media heads said while they do not think their platforms were used to solicit fake news, checks should be implemented to avoid such a move in the future:
Facebook recently did away with its “Trending News” section – calling it outdated and unpopular. That section was criticized in the past after reports came out claiming the human editors were biased against conservatives. After Facebook fired those editors, the algorithms it replaced them with couldn’t always distinguish real news from fake.
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After the 2016 election, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg denied that fake news spread on the social site he oversees influenced the outcome- calling the idea “crazy.”
California’s new proposal would offer what they believe to be another layer of protection, at the expense of government-driven censorship – something critics of the bill have emphasized.
As CBS News reports, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the new bill “flawed” and “misguided.” The group said the essence of what is true or false would then be dictated by the government. They also point out that the advisory group would impede protections afforded to citizens via the First Amendment. These protections include the prevention of content-based restrictions and the right to express “admittedly false” statements.
Despite the opposition, the California bill cleared the state’s Senate chamber by a vote of 25 to 11. It will first be heard by the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, tourism, and Internet Media Committee on Tuesday where it will be determined if the bill gets a vote in the Assembly chamber.
“A previous bill, AB 155, would have required schools to teach students the difference between ‘fake news’ and ‘real news.’ It died in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations,” CBS News reports.