Doctor and California State Senator Richard Pan thought that prescribing 1984-style mass censorship on a healthy populace would be a winning idea in 2018.
But luckily for all Californians, his medicine, which ultimately turned out to be a placebo, proved to be too bitter a pill for the Governor to swallow.
That’s why on Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 1424, legislation that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers’ money to fund a misguided study aimed at policing social media speech.
In his veto letter, Brown wrote that SB 1424 “directs the Attorney General to establish an advisory group to study the problem of the spread of false information through Internet-based social platforms.” But what he didn’t write was Pan’s bill could have been much, much worse.
In fact, SB 1424 originally would have imposed an Orwellian nightmare on Californians before Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) lobbied against the bill, forcing it to be amended into a largely toothless study bill.
Study bills, however, can still be problematic because they are often used by politicians to sneakily reintroduce unpopular ideas in the Legislature… sometimes years after their initial bills stall.
In its original form, SB 1424 would have brought all kinds of free speech restrictions on people who use social media.
For example, under the bill, anyone with a social media website and a physical presence would have been required to develop a strategic plan to guard against the spread of “false information.” What’s more, the bill would have mandated the use of “fact-checkers” and warning labels on news stories deemed to contain “false information.”
And to make matters worse, a social media presence, as defined by the state, would have encompassed nearly everyone with an email address, blog, habit of sending texts, or electronic content… in other words: everyone.
In essence, Pan’s bill would have put the government in charge of free speech, a point FPC argued would have been a violation of the First Amendment in its opposition letter to the Legislature.
The fact of the matter is SB 1424 could have been a breathtaking assault on the First Amendment, and all because the bill’s author thought he had a Pan-acea for “fake news.”
But, thanks to groups like FPC, as well as Gov. Brown, this bill was appropriately Pan-ned.