Fight online misinformation and criminalize voter suppression

This week, the senator Joe Manchin Announce He won’t support Human Resources 1, Comprehensive electoral reform legislation passed in the House of Representatives and has been stagnant in the Senate, effectively undermining its passage. But policymakers should not completely cancel the bill. For legislators who are serious about expanding platform responsibilities to combat online misinformation, some regulations hidden in the depths of HR1 are one of the best choices for reform.

Many lawmakers who are hesitant to support HR1, including Senator Manchin, have Claim It is strongly hoped that online misinformation will be regulated, especially the requirement to reform Article 230 to expand the responsibility of the technology platform. The absence of the HR 1 debate is the fact that the clauses hidden in hundreds of pages of the bill’s dense legislative language will make the technology platform responsible for a key online misinformation: suppressing voters.Out of a lot of Among the proposals to reform Article 230, this part of HR 1 is the most promising.

HR 1 will expand platform liability by making voter suppression a criminal offence.Although Section 230 makes it difficult for platforms to take responsibility for the content they host in cases brought under state or federal laws Civil Law, it does Is not Lawyer litigation based on federal criminal law. Any case that uses the federal criminal law as the basis of liability is basically not subject to Article 230.

HR 1 put together several previously proposed bills aimed at reforming the electoral process.One of them, deception and voter intimidation prevention behavior, Make false statements about “time, place, or method” or elections, “eligibility or restriction of voter eligibility”, or public acceptance as a federal crime. Currently, there is no federal law prohibiting these practices.

The bill was introduced in 2007 by then Senator Barack Obama.At that time, Obama famous Intimidation and misleading “usually target voters who live in minority or low-income communities.” He claimed that the legislation would “ensure for the first time a full investigation of these incidents and punishment of those convicted.” (The bill was shelved shortly after Obama started his presidential campaign.)

Although the bill was announced ten years before Russian Internet research institutions and Macedonian youth became a regular feature of news headlines, it foresaw some of the challenges we face in online communication today. If passed, this will be the first federal law in the United States to criminalize misinformation on the Internet.

Making voter suppression a criminal offence will not only expand the platform’s responsibility for voting misinformation.Also a possibility prevent Some people use online misinformation campaigns to try to suppress votes, because prosecutors can sue the perpetrators of deception. It will also provide a basis for the platform to cooperate with law enforcement in voter suppression cases.Although the platform regularly provides data In response to today’s law enforcement requests, they only receive legal ClaimWithout applicable laws, no federal law enforcement agency can make a legal request, and the platform has no legal basis for providing data. With the new law, the government can require the platform to hold relevant data, and the platform can also comply.

This solution is not perfect. Critics may question the constitutionality of the law under the First Amendment.In the past, the Supreme Court has been skeptical of laws restricting election speech, even though they have adhere to Laws are needed to “protect voters from chaos and undue influence” and “ensure[e] Individuals’ right to vote will not be compromised by fraud in the election process. “

Legal cases against platforms will also face severe challenges.To determine that the platform is responsible, the prosecutor needs to determine that a statement is “substantially false” and the platform know The statement is false and “intentionally hinders or prevents others from exercising their voting rights.” Proving all of this will be difficult, especially if the platform only hosts content posted by users.

Changing the law may also not significantly change platform policies or behavior, because some platforms have already banned the suppression of voters. Take Twitter as an example, Prohibit “Publishing or sharing content may inhibit participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate in the citizenship process.”

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