Former FEC Chair Calls For Crackdown on Internet “Disinformation” In Major Threat To Free Speech

In addition to new rules on paid ads, Ravel wants fake news to be regulated under her proposal titled Fool Me Once: The Case for Government Regulation of ‘Fake News.” If adopted, a “social media user” would be flagged for sharing anything deemed false by regulators:

“after a social media user clicks ‘share’ on a disputed item (if the platforms do not remove them and only label them as disputed), government can require that the user be reminded of the definition of libel against a public figure. Libel of public figures requires ‘actual malice,’ defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth. Sharing an item that has been flagged as untrue might trigger liability under libel laws.”

Without clearly defining “disinformation,” Ravel would give bureaucrats the power to label postings as false and harass those who share such information.  Of course, this would also involve a massive databanks of collections ads and discussions by the government.

The authors of the proposal see greater government regulation as the solution to what they describe as “informational deficits” in the largely free exchanges of the Internet.  There is a far dosage of doublespeak in the article.  Rather than refer to the new regulation as guaranteeing greater government control, the authors insist that “government regulations . . .  improve transparency.” Rather than talk of government controls over speech, the authors talk about the government “nudging” otherwise ignorant readers and commentators.  Here is the worrisome section:

Government regulations to help voters avoid spreading disinformation

Educate social media users. Social media users can unintentionally spread disinformation when they interact with it in their newsfeeds. Depending on their security settings, their entire online social network can see items that they interact with (by “liking” or commenting), even if they are expressing their opposition to the content. Social media users should not interact with disinformation in their feeds at all (aside from flagging it for review by third party fact checkers). Government should require platforms to regularly remind social media users about not interacting with disinformation.

Similarly, after a social media user clicks “share” on a disputed item (if the platforms do not remove them and only label them as disputed), government can require that the user be reminded of the definition of libel against a public figure. Libel of public figures requires “actual malice”, defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth. Sharing an item that has been flagged as untrue might trigger liability under libel laws.

Nudge social media users to not view disputed content. Lawmakers should require platforms to provide an opt-in (or, more weakly, opt-out) system for viewing disputed content and periodically remind users of their options. We think the courts should uphold this as a constitutional regulation of political speech, but we acknowledge that it is a closer question than the more straightforward disclosure regulations above. The most analogous cases are to commercial speech cases (AdChoices and Do Not Call Registry, which was upheld). Commercial speech receives less protection than political speech.

I have been writing about the threat to free speech coming increasingly from the left, including Democratic politicians.  The implications of such controls are being dismissed in the pursuit of new specters of “fake news” or “microaggressions” or “disinformation.”  The result has been a comprehensive assault on free speech from college campuses to the Internet to social media.  What is particularly worrisome is the targeting of the Internet, which remains the single greatest advancement of free speech of our generation.  Not surprisingly, governments see the Internet as a threat while others seeks to control its message.

What Ravel and her co-authors are suggesting is a need to label certain views as “false” while giving not-so-subtle threats of legal action for those who share such information.  Once the non-threatening language of “nudges” and “transparency” are stripped away, the proposal’s true meaning is laid bare as a potentially radical change in government regulation over free speech and association.


What do you think?

71 thoughts on “Former FEC Chair Calls For Crackdown on Internet “Disinformation” In Major Threat To Free Speech”

  1. This is an interesting article which puts much of what we see in good perspective:

    “As such, it becomes crystal clear that when it comes to libel laws some Democrats have a lot more in common with Donald Trump than they’d like you to believe. Which basically proves my point — there’s a lot more agreement between authoritarians on the “right” and the “left” than meets the eye. Both types want the power to control what you see, what you read and how you think. Don’t let political labels fool you, anti-free speech is anti-free speech whether it comes from a Democrat or a Republican. The real battle is Liberty vs. Authoritarianism.”

  2. I don’t understand this kind of opinion? So our ears have become so sensitive that any speech except liberal voices be outlawed? Where do these people come from anyway. If I don’t like what you are saying, it’s quite easy to walk away or change the channel. Sounds to me like this individual would be happier if she moved to Russia or maybe Iran.

  3. Remember Karen S, people like Ann Ravel know what’s best for you and they’re only looking out for your swelfare.

  4. You see, we idiot citizenry must be protected from our stupidity – by the government (aka “Big Brother).

  5. While the government should keep hands off, the public will continue to suffer from biased, false and uncredited stories that advance a political or social agenda. Software is already available that can filter and catalog blind internet items according to one’s personal perspective. No, the government cannot punish or threaten users of the internet. That is off the table. But how are citizens able to process the avalanche of information that we are expected to absorb every day? Abusers of the truth need to be identified. I foresee private organizations funding projects that can identify the sources of deliberate misinformation so that the public can know who to trust.

  6. WHOA! In a surreal move…

    An Outraged George W. Bush Lashes Out At Trump: “Bigotry Seems Emboldened”

    “Without explicitly naming Trump or any other politicians, Bush criticized the “governing class”, although it was not immediately clear if the president who invaded Iraq included himself in that grouping.”

    However, Bush did not libel a public figure as he said he wasn’t talking about Trump, just the unicorns he sees when he drinks! This is a man who knowingly began a war which has killed more than 100,000 people using false information which his administration and other globalist entities made up from whole cloth…Whoa! When war criminals become the hero of the left, we are in serious trouble here!

    1. It’s Zerohedge. No conventional news outlets are reporting it.

        1. The Post and CNN are trying to put a gloss on it which assumes that Bush holds to the same idiot nonsense that Bezos, Sulzberger, and Zucker have been promoting. It’s exceedingly doubtful that Bush is given to such inanity.

          1. You can listen to the speech at the links I provided. There are transcripts. I’m trusting that people can read or listen and make up their own minds about what kind of inanity Bush is capable of!

            1. The quotes they pull do not give one an interpretive framework. Bezos et al supply that themselves, because they’re deranged.


                ““Our young people need positive role models,” he said. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only ay (sic) to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.””


                Former Pres. George W Bush: “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

                10:26 AM – Oct 19, 2017

                  1. Nicolle D. Wallace is the trashy careerist that John McCain hired to mismanage his public relations operation. She actually wrote a memoir of the campaign that other campaign staff say is corrupted with bald-faced lies (and fairly gaudy ones, which you don’t have to be an insider to see). You’re trafficking in this grifter’s latest load just why?

                    1. Former WH director of communications under George W. Bush……. She knows him well.

              2. dds/ts,

                First you claim no “conventional news outlets” are reporting the talk by Bush. This is an argument from authority, not to mention it was incorrect as I clearly showed you “conventional news outlets” reporting the story. So when that tactic didn’t work out, you just said no one can really know what Bush is saying because his speech is being twisted.

                Next I pointed out that not just quotes but the entire speech could be heard and that people could make a judgment about what Bush was saying all by simply listening to what he actually said. To counter this you again said it was only quotes twisted by Bezos, et al. This is not accurate as the full speech is available for people to hear.

                It seems like you believe the same things as Ann and Abby. You seem worried that people will listen to things for themselves and make their own analysis of what they heard. It is difficult to understand why else you would state so many inaccurate things, even after they had been proven to be inaccurate.

                At any rate, it’s all yours to carry on as you see fit!

                1. First you claim no “conventional news outlets” are reporting the talk by Bush. This is an argument from authority,

                  You didn’t cite an outside source because you’re uninterested in authority. I point out you cited a crank site which publishes all manner of nonsense. That’s what comes up when you search for this item.

                  You’ve not acknowledged that Bush’s statement is only an attack on Trump if you have certain assumptions about Trump which it’s difficult to believe Bush harbors. It’s not difficult to believe you harbor them. There is, as always, nothing useful or defensible taking place between your two ears.

                    1. George W. Bush Is Right About Donald J. Trump—But He’s the Wrong Messenger

                      The path to our reality-TV president went straight through Iraq.

                      Matt Lewis



                      The problem is not our system of government; it is that we have permitted this. We live in a reality TV world. Is it any wonder we elected a reality TV president? We’re all to blame for the cultural degradation that has led us to this point.

                      But while we all bear some blame, Bush, specifically, bears responsibility. The rise of Donald Trump was, to some extent, a backlash against the kind of compassionate conservatism that morphed into adventurism. And here, I’m not sure Bush has learned his lesson.

                      The war in Iraq set off a chain of events that led us to Trump (granted, you could argue that every past historic event has led us here, but Iraq was a big deal).

                      Bush’s worldview and rhetoric betrayed a Wilsonian belief that we could spread democracy to places that lack the tradition or experience that would enable them to receive it. (This has nothing to do with race or ethnicity, but everything to do with culture.) But despite everything that has transpired, Bush hasn’t lost his quixotic notions or soaring rhetoric.

                      “We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future,” Bush assured us today. “We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued.”

                      It’s hard to argue with this, except that we actually don’t know which way the arc of history will bend. Let us hope it is toward freedom. -Matt Lewis

                    2. Madam, you all keep coming up with the worst messengers. Matt K. Lewis is a very unprepossessing fellow – a career conservative of no erudition whose primary employment is working for Robert Wright’s Bloggingheads. He’s an established advocate of open borders. Cue Mandy Rice-Davies.

  7. “The regulation would include the targeting of people who share stories deemed fake or disinformation by government regulators.”

    The government would target people whom it declares has shared fake information. The government would define what constitutes fake or disinformation.

    You know, I believe that is already the case in countries like North Korea and China, where people are jailed for criticizing the government, or for claiming that what the government calls “fog” is actually highly toxic “smog.”

    What could go wrong?

    This country was founded so that people could have the strong individual freedoms they were denied elsewhere. Freedom of speech and religion were unheard of anywhere else. People like Ann Ravel have been so spoiled in their freedom that she seeks to take freedom away from those with whom she disagrees. She believes that if she only had more power, she could make life so much better for others. That way lies tyranny.

    Only a fool keeps repeating a failed experiment and expects it to succeed.

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