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Cyber Fraud Bill Would Make Political 'Fake News' Against The Law

LOS ANGELES ( — A California state lawmaker wants to make it against the law to publish and spread so-called "fake news" that could potentially impact a political race.

Assembly Bill 1104, known as "The California Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act", would amend the state elections code to add this language:

"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."

The legislation introduced by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D – Monterey Park) does not specify how the law would be enforced or any potential penalties that would be incurred, but it appears to be aimed at the "fake news" factor that many believe impacted the 2016 presidential election.

Privacy advocates like Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have warned the bill could result in "a chaotic free-for-all of mudslinging with candidates and others being accused of crimes at the slightest hint of hyperbole, exaggeration, poetic license, or common error."

"At a time when political leaders are promoting 'alternative facts' and branding unflattering reporting as "fake news,' we don't think it's a good idea to give the government more power to punish speech," the EFF said in a statement.

Under the proposed bill, comedy shows like "Saturday Night Live" and satire sites like "The Onion" could be accused of illegal content since the legislation makes no distinction for such genres, according to the EFF.

AB 1104 was scheduled to be heard Monday by the California Assembly's Committee on Privacy and Consumer Affairs, but the hearing was subsequently canceled at Chau's request. It's status is unclear.

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