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To combat online misinformation, criminalize the elimination of voters

This week, Senator Joe Manchin he announced that he will not accept HR 1, He passed the House and the Senate constantly passed extensive election reform legislation, effectively torpedoing his passage. But politicians would not completely undo the bill. For legislators tasked with spreading the responsibility of platforms to tackle online misinformation, certain provisions that are deeply hidden in HR1 offer one of the best options for reform.

Many lawmakers who have had doubts about protecting HR1, including Senator Manchin recognize a keen desire to regulate online misinformation, specifically calling for a reform of Section 230 to expand the responsibility of technology platforms. There is no provision in the HR 1 debate — buried in hundreds of pages of dense billing legislative language — that would make technology platforms responsible for one key type of network misinformation: the removal of voters. Outside dozens Among the proposals for reforming Article 230, this section 1 HR is one of the most promising.

It would expand the responsibility of the HR 1 platform by criminalizing the removal of voters. Article 230 makes it difficult to be responsible for the content of the platforms in cases presented under state or federal law. civil the law, it does no bar clothes based on federal criminal law. Any case that uses federal criminal law as a basis for liability is essentially exempt from section 230.

HR 1 includes a number of pre-submitted bills that seek to reform the electoral process. One of them is Fraudulent Practice and Prevention of Voter Intimidation Actionit would be a federal crime to make false statements about “time, place or manner” or elections, “conditions or restrictions on the right to vote” or public protections. Currently, a federal law does not prohibit such practices.

The bill was introduced in 2007 by then-Senator Barack Obama. At the time, Obama indicate efforts to intimidate and deceive are “usually aimed at voters living in underserved or low-income neighborhoods”. He claimed that the legislation would “investigate these incidents for the first time and ensure that those guilty are punished”. (The bill fell asleep shortly after Obama’s presidential campaign began.)

Even though the bill was introduced a decade before the Russian Internet Research Agency and Macedonian teenagers became a regular feature of new headlines, it foresaw some of the challenges of online communications that we face today. If approved, it would be the first U.S. federal law to impose criminal penalties for disseminating misinformation online.

Criminalizing the removal of voters would not only extend the responsibility of the platform for misinforming the vote. It is likely prevent some use online misinformation campaigns to try to remove the vote, as prosecutors can take cases against perpetrators who commit fraudulent practices. It would also provide the platforms with the basics to work with law enforcement in cases of voter removal. While the platforms offer it regularly data in response to requests to enforce today’s law, they do so after receiving a legal one request. Without applicable law, federal law enforcement authorities cannot make legal claims, and platforms have no legal basis for providing data. With the new law, the government can request important data stored by the platforms, and the platforms can comply with it.

This solution is not perfect. Critics would question the constitutionality of the law under the First Amendment. In the past, the Supreme Court has been skeptical of laws that limit election discourse confirmed laws necessary to “protect” voters from “disruption and undue influence” and “ensure” them[e] that the right to vote of the individual is not weakened by fraud in the electoral process. “

Legal litigation against the platforms will also face serious challenges. For the platform to be liable, a prosecutor should state that a statement is “materially false,” the platform he knew the statement was false, and that “another person intended to prevent or impede the exercise of the right to vote.” All of this would be difficult to prove, especially in cases where platforms host content posted by a user.

Changing the law would also not change the policies or behavior of the platforms drastically, as several platforms already prohibit the removal of voters. Twitter, for example prohibits “Posting or sharing content that may prevent you from participating or that may mislead people when, where or how they may participate in a civil process.”


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