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CA senator proposes bill requiring ‘state-sanctioned fact-checkers’ to approve online content

Computer Screen (Yosomono/Flickr)
April 10, 2018
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Richard Pan, a Democratic Senator from California, has introduced a bill that would require state-sanctioned fact-checkers to approve online content.

If passed, online publishers would be forced to have fact-checkers approve content before posting it online.

According to the proposed bill, any person who has a social media or web presence in California would have to have a plan to mitigate the spread of “fake news,” use fact-checkers to verify news stories and place a warning on stories that might contain false information.

The bill states:

This bill would require any person who operates a social media, as defined, Internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The bill would require the plan to include, among other things, a plan 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.

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This is the proposed bill:

SENATE BILL No. 1424

Introduced by Senator Pan on February 16, 2018

An act to amend Section 1103 of the Commercial Code, relating to commercial law. An act to add Title 14.5 (commencing with Section 3085) to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, relating to the Internet.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SB 1424, as amended, Pan. Commercial law. Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan.

Existing law prohibits a person, among others, from making or disseminating in any advertising device, or in any manner or means whatever, including over the Internet, any statement concerning real or personal property or services that is untrue or misleading, as specified.

This bill would require any person who operates a social media, as defined, Internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The bill would require the plan to include, among other things, a plan 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.

The Uniform Commercial Code generally regulates commercial transactions, and is intended to be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes and policies, which include simplifying, clarifying, and modernizing the law governing commercial transactions.

This bill would make no substantive changes to that law.

DIGEST KEY

Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: no   Local Program: no

BILL TEXT

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. Title 14.5 (commencing with Section 3085) is added to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, to read:

TITLE 14.5. False Information Strategic Plans

  1. (a) Any person who operates a social media Internet Web site with physical presence in California shall develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Internet Web site.

(b) The strategic plan shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following:

(1) A plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories.

(2) The utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories.

(3) Providing outreach to social media users regarding news stories containing false information.

(4) Placing a warning on a news story containing false information.

(c) As used in this section, “social media” means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.

SECTION 1.Section 1103 of the Commercial Code is amended to read:

1103.(a)This code shall be liberally construed and applied to promote its underlying purposes and policies, which are all of the following:

(1)To simplify, clarify, and modernize the law governing commercial transactions.

(2)To permit the continued expansion of commercial practices through custom, usage, and agreement of the parties.

(3)To make uniform the law among the various jurisdictions.

(b)Unless displaced by the particular provisions of this code, the principles of law and equity, including the law merchant and the law relative to capacity to contract, principal and agent, estoppel, fraud, misrepresentation, duress, coercion, mistake, bankruptcy, and other validating or invalidating cause supplement its provisions.

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