California Lawmakers Looking To Make Bad Law Worse By Banning 'False' Political Speech

from the good-luck-with-that dept

There’s something to be said for an informed electorate, although it really shouldn’t be elected officials advocating for it. They’d benefit least from people knowing more about sausage and the making thereof. And legislators definitely shouldn’t be robbing the First Amendment to pay for better information, as a few California lawmakers are attempting to do.

A new bill, pointed out by the EFF’s Dave Maass, seems to be a response of sorts to “fake news” and other political detritus of this highly-partisan system. Ostensibly, the bill is aimed at keeping voters from being misled on issues that affect them. The problem is, this bill would allow the government to determine what is or isn’t misleading and apply to a citizen’s social media posts, blog, etc.

California’s existing “political cyberfraud” law (yes, really) already contains wording that forbids cybersquatting, misleading redirects, and otherwise tricking internet users who are seeking information on ballot measures. The existing law is more concerned with acts along the lines of false impersonation and deliberate fraud. The amendment, however, isn’t. It adds a couple of new aspects, both making the bad law worse.

First, the law would no longer be limited to “cyberfraud” related to pending ballot measures. It would expand to protect political candidates from being bested by wily web denizens. Where it really goes downhill is this new clause, which criminalizes even more speech.

SEC. 2.

Section 18320.5 is added to the Elections Code, to read:

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.

With this law, opinions and misinterpretations of ballot measures/candidates’ political stances are now illegal acts. The law goes further than simply punishing the writer of false statements. It also aims to punish publishers (which could be read as punishing hosts who would normally be protected by Section 230) and anyone who shares the newly-illegal content. If anything in the original post hints of political leaning, it can be construed as “designed to influence the vote,” which would make most heated political discussions a breeding ground for criminal communications.

It would seem the “victims” listed in the proposed amendment aren’t really in need of a free speech-abusing law. If California’s government doesn’t like the tone of online posts about ballot measures, it has plenty of opportunities (and numerous platforms) to set the record straight. Worse, it gives the government the power to shut down speech it doesn’t agree with under the pretense preventing voters from being misled.

As for political candidates, they rarely suffer the problem of having too little speech. Bullshit can be countered with more speech, a rhetorical weapon everyone has access to, but political candidates in particular tend to be especially well-equipped in this department.

How the original law managed to survive a constitutional challenge remains a mystery. This addition has zero chance of being found constitutional if it somehow manages to become law.

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Comments on “California Lawmakers Looking To Make Bad Law Worse By Banning 'False' Political Speech”

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aerinai says:

Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

I don’t understand why politicians would write a law they all will violate when advocating for their own cause:

a false or deceptive statement designed to influence the vote on either of the following.

Once a news outlet runs a video of them speaking about any topic they care about on national TV (that has to then be streamed on the internet… because this law doesn’t single out other channels such as news papers or television)… they will be in violation given that some of these titles are deceptive in themselves (Florida’s Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice for example)

But I am sure they didn’t consider it used against them. This is one of those laws to use against the populace, since obviously they have evolved to a higher echelon of existence.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

Because, as you point out in your final sentence the laws don’t apply to the nobility.

If a politician says something that might be a bit… loose with the truth then clearly it was nothing more extreme than a misstatement, or an expression of opinion, and therefore doesn’t count. And of course bill names don’t count because really, those names are thrown together randomly, it’s not like politicians name bills in misleading fashions in order to make them out to be things that they’re not, so clearly anyone taking them literally is to blame, not the politicians.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals


Because citizens are okay with corruption, they INVITE CORRUPTION! Let me shine upon you a piece of wisdom that is constantly forgotten, ignored, or ridiculed when brought up.

“and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Every Nation gets the Government it deserves, because everyone refuses to accept responsibility for their very, very small part in it! They think, there is no way I can change anything and lose hope and continue to prove the wisdom written in the Declaration of Independence right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

Please post evidence of your claim about citizens being ok with corruption. I imagine it to be something like – a survey was taken and the response was overwhelmingly positive when asked if they liked corruption.

Oh wait … it’s the every nation guy – nevermind – your opinion will not be changed and it is a waste attempting to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

“Please post evidence of your claim about citizens being ok with corruption.”

I guess you have not seen congress huh? Or how about all of the Americans that supported their congress critters, judges, and Presidents when they did obviously unconstitutional things when it served their political fancies.

When pro-gun control people support laws that harm the 2nd Amendment they are saying they are Pro-Corruption.
When pro-Drug War people support laws for civil forfeiture that harms the 4th Amendment, they are saying they are Pro-Corruption.

These barely even scratch the surface but are excessively prolific examples. You might notice that both Democrats and Republicans are very much guilty of and complicit with the corruption.

The quote “Every Nation gets the Government it Deserves” is wisdom in a nutshell that offends the guilty more than the innocent. As a Nation, we are 100% responsible for it’s government. The more time, people like you, spend allowing these politicians to make you think your fellow citizens are your enemy the more time they have to take everything from you. You have been told since you were able to understand that someone was out to get you, everyone has. The person(s) that says vote for me, and I will protect you… are your greatest enemy(s)!

As stated in the Declaration of Independence….

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

If you don’t like the quote “Every Nation gets the Government it Deserves” Then you must fucking HATE the Declaration of Independence. It says the same fucking thing, just in a different way!

WE are responsible for its creation, and WE are responsible for its direction, and WE are responsible for its change or overthrow if necessary.

If you don’t want the responsibility of your Government on your head… find a corner of the world where you can live by yourself without government and good luck with that, or end your own life!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

Even a fool can speak wisdom.

The more that quote hurts the more it must be said. Regardless of Joseph’s intention, he uttered wisdom all the same.

Many fools say, consider the source…
I say… consider the truth instead.

If watching people suffer while choosing to do nothing makes you a bad person, then doing nothing while a government bends towards corruption means the same.

And if you choose to be a bad person, you tend to deserve everything you get. And if there are more good than bad people… how can evil prevail?

You see, far too many people are overtly interested in the tone and soothing sound of a snakes tongue rather than in the true meaning behind its words. Our politicians spend the majority of their time learning how to tell citizens that they are stupid, incompetent, and incapable in nice ways. In ways that trick citizens in to giving away their rights, while believing that government respects them or cares about them.

Do not worry, ignorance is bliss. Or like Einstein once said… “two things are infinite… the Universe and Human Stupidity… and I am not sure about the Universe!”

Cal (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

"In ways that trick citizens in to giving away their rights,…"

First, in reading your comments I must thank you for taking the time to understand our government.

Second, though this must seem like a "backhanded compliment", it is not. It is further educating the people.

It matters not what "color of law" is passed, our rights come from nature, God, being human, whatever is your choice. They are not there by government, they are there for us to use when there is no government – like water, air, earth, defense, speaking, etc. Even a bird defends itself and its young, its nest. WE choose not to speak, and not to defend our right to speak, or we let those who wish to decide for us what to think, do, accept.

You’re correct in that everything that happens to us by those who SERVE WITHIN our governments is our fault, we allow it to go on.

The problem is that many do not know that the US Constitution that every single person in America should have read/read. They do not understand that keeping those who serve within our government keeping the contract that they are under is OUR duty.

Nor do governmental enforcers know that they make themselves *terrorists and traitors when they enforce "color of law" instead of keeping their Oath as is required of them. They do not understand, or choose to assist in, destroying our nation, our legitimate government means that they themselves no loner will own a thing – home, land, car, clothes, etc. They only own it under these laws, under our Constitutional government.

I choose to speak, to walk, to grow what I want, to educate where I can, particularly governmental enforcers – law enforcement and military – because they are/and will continue to be the first wave of violence and force used against our nation – remember when unlawfully those who serve within our governments removed the requirements of "warrants" and not being able to just break into private homes? Every one serving at that time and since was required to take and KEEP the Oath to Support and Defend the US Constitution. They made the personal choice to work against our nation and legitimate government. They are still making those choices. But there choices destroy their own lives as they know them – they will no longer own anything as well as the rest of us. Read what those who are working to destroy the USA want. The government will own all, will decide all, will decide who gets what and when, etc.

Cal says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

Sorry, forgot to put int the legal definition of "terrorist".

*28 C.F.R. Section 0.85 Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”.

Pasadena says:

Re: Democrat EDWARD CHAU


If TD is truly disturbed by this piece of proposed legislation, it should clearly identify the lone person responsible for it — that person is Democrat politician EDWARD CHAU of California 49th Assembly District (Los Angeles area).

Instead, TD uses the term “California lawmakers” as the source of this awful and unconstitutional proposal.
In doing so, it hides the identity of the culprit here, and falsely implies that there is some broader support in the legislature for this measure.

Bad actors in government should always be personally identified by the media !

Direct media exposure on this type of malicious legislator/politician is one of the best defenses against them — but Geeez… you gotta at least mention their name !

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Democrat EDWARD CHAU

Ermm… the old trick is..

When your side does something yo disagree with… the problem is those pesky politicians in general.

When the other side does something you disagree with, the problem is those or

Everyone has a bias, it’s just a fact of life and the people that most refuse the occupation of bias are the worst!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Democrat EDWARD CHAU

OMG TD formatting bit me in the ass again!

“When the other side does something you disagree with, the problem is those or…”

—Should have been—

When the other side does something you disagree with, the problem is those “specifically labeled party or group” and/or specifically named person(s), usually with a few choice hypocritical statements/accusations or ad hominem attacks.

Pasadena says:


Do you support Chau’s bill… or are you just being pesky?

You have absolutely no evidence of support from any of his colleagues.

Chau was officially the ONLY sponsor of that bill, though other Assembly members could easily have joined him formally as co-sponsors.

TD had no evidence of other lawmakers supporting this measure either, but chose to imply there were multiple supporters. Even Chau’s name was unmentioned. Such seemingly minor journalistic details mask Chau’s personal culpability and hubris.

Paul keating (profile) says:

Re: Goodbye Politicians, Too bad you are criminals

I think this is a great law!! Think if the roar of silence. No more politicians promising shit they can and will never provide. No more PACs. It would be truly wonderful. And with the politicians and PACs silenced there is no reason for Joe or Joan public to publish anything. So no risk of harm to the masses.

Sort of like a law that obligates advertisers to state “claims not independently substantiated” if they cannot link to an I dependent laboratory proving the product performs as advertised.

Anonymous Coward says:

“How the original law managed to survive a constitutional challenge remains a mystery.”

California long ago succeeded in becoming a 2nd-Amendment-free zone, so should we really be surprised that the state now seeks to exempt itself from the First Amendment as well?

Of course, since California’s state government has been controlled (if not overwhelmingly dominated by) a single political party — a situation that is unlikely to change in the forseeable future — it’s not hard to predict that this law will almost certainly be used by the ruling party as a weapon against the opposition party.

Ninja (profile) says:

I wonder if anybody proposing such idiocy have taken 10 seconds to think about what would happen if the opposite party got into power and decided to abuse it against them. To me the answer is simple: if it can be abused by your ‘enemy’ to screw you then don’t pass it. At the very least be coherent when playing the ‘us vs them’ game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The ruling Democratic party has in all likelihood thought this through very well, and correctly concluded that they have little to worry about, because population migration patterns, as well as new citizenship naturalizations, mean that California will in the foreseeable future become even more overwhelming Democratic than it already is.

Even in states where political power is divided fairly equally between both major parties, such “false speech” bans help to ensure that incumbent office holders have a long tenure.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Past studies show that the odds of getting in a wreck are low, so it's not like you Need an airbag..."

In which case they’re idiots, as you don’t make plans on the assumption that things will go great, you make plans assuming that things will go bad, and when it comes to writing laws the default assumption should be that your worst enemy will have full ability to use it the second it is passed.

For a recent example as I recall pre-election had Hilary as pretty much a shoe-in for the presidency, yet here we are with Trump, despite pretty much all predictions to the contrary, so ‘We’re pretty sure that we’ll be in power for the foreseeable future, so we don’t have to worry about this being used against us’ is a stupid, shortsighted move if that is indeed the rational they’re using. There will always be a chance for a major shift of power, it just might take a bit in some cases.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Positive benefit

Some lies are more obvious than others, and some are accepted as truth depending upon ones ideology. The determination of lying or not is in the public’s hands. Now if we could get the political parties out of the equation, ideology might become less prominent, as people would have to determine their own ideology, rather than just following a party line, which interestingly changes, and even reverses, over time.

This reminds me of an old joke. Two politicians are arguing, when one exclaims to the other ‘Your lying’. The other responds ‘Well, yes I am, but let me finish’.

LetItGoToTheSupremeCourt says:

I dunno

So would we all rather let entertainment news channels define the culture and narrative for our politics or should we embrace a politician who is making a point about politician’s lying in a very public way through the legislative process?

I dunno.

On one hand free speech, which is being used against the United States by foreign adversaries and the enemies within and does have limitations aka Truth in advertising –

“When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence. The Federal Trade Commission enforces these truth-in-advertising laws, and it applies the same standards no matter where an ad appears – in newspapers and magazines, online, in the mail, or on billboards or buses.”

Is this new bill simply adding politics to truth in advertising categories?

I dunno.

As much as free speech is heralded as a sacred right based on a 200+ year old set of ideals, those ideals have been used against those ideals for too many years and perhaps now is the time to reign in some speech i.e. politicians lying on the campaign trail and or money as speech (the ladder I always thought was commerce).

Will be interesting to see how other politician’s react, and honestly I don’t much care how the ACLU or EFF thinks about this as they helped enable the onslaught of money in politics and pushed us down his road of false speech.

Go Go lawmaker, make the case, push this bill to the fed supreme court, I want to watch Chief Justice Roberts squirm when confronted with legislation he helped make necessary.

Push it lawmakers, enact it, let it go to the supreme court where the real culprits (justices) would have to face the tiger they let loose.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

"political cyberfraud"


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.

Their lyrics are really going downhill.

Sharatan says:

Truth for Sale

Under a law like this only those who could afford to defend themselves in court, even if telling the truth, could afford to speak on the internet. As it is now, even those telling the truth are subject to ruinous civil lawsuits, as we’ve seen around here. This would add criminal prosecution to their woes as well.

“You might beat the rap, but you won’t beat the ride”.

Anonymous Coward says:

One way would be to use a VPN to hide your identity when posting anything. Just be sure to use something outside the USA, that keeps no logs.

This sounds like a good time to get in the VPN business. Just have it incorporated somewheres other than the USA and never keep any logs. They cannot trace what they cannot prosecute.

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