We pride ourselves in the United States on ‘Freedom of Speech’, a fundamental right that we hold to be important in our society. However, far too often this right is infringed upon without us even realizing it, framed as ‘concern’. This is the concern with a new bill proposed in California.
Introduced by California Senator Richard Pan, the bill is titled ‘SB1424 Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan’ is focused on the information that is being shared online and the way in which we verify it’s authenticity. In a world where we are constantly inundated with ‘false news’, and the average citizen appears to be unable to fact check the information they are sharing prior to putting it out on their social media accounts for the world to see, it has a solid basis.
The bill was introduced as a means of holding websites accountable for the information that they are posting. Known as the ‘Online False Information Act’, it’s stated goal is “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.” While it sounds great in theory, there are a number of concerns being raised since it was introduced.
First, Senator Pan never actually names who these ‘state-sanctioned fact-checkers’ would be. It stands to reason that it may rely upon the same fact-checkers used by Facebook currently and approved by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). The organization is organized and run by the Poynter Institute, a world leader in journalism. However, it’s important to note that the organization isn’t currently without bias. Funded, in part, by liberal organizations such as George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, one has to wonder how easy it would be for the government to use these organizations to censor the information being made available to the general population.
Take, for example, the current vaccination debate. It has been made clear that the official government stance on the topic, as has been stated on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) website, is that all vaccinations “undergo a rigorous review of laboratory and clinical data to ensure the safety, efficacy, purity, and potency of these products. Vaccines approved for marketing may also be required to undergo additional studies to further evaluate the vaccine and often to address specific questions about the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness or possible side effects.” As such, the U.S. Government clearly supports the idea that all vaccinations made available to the public are first proven to be completely safe.
Therefore, if someone holds a differing view, for example, challenging the safety of a specific vaccination, their information would contradict the ‘official story’. This could then be labeled as ‘false news’ by the appointed fact-checkers, requiring that the website is labeled with a ‘fake news’ warning. As such, any effort to question the official government story would then be shut down as lacking ‘credibility’.
While the concept is certainly a positive notion, ridding the world of ‘fake news’ to ensure that the information made available is accurate and trustworthy, at what cost? Are we genuinely protecting Americans, or paving the way for the government to control any and all attempts to questions their decision making? It’s a slippery slope…