Former FEC Head Proposes ‘Government Regulation’ Of ‘Fake News’


In a paper titled: "Fool Me Once: The Case for Government Regulation of ‘Fake News,’" former Federal Election Commission (FEC) head, Ann M. Ravel, as well as co-authors Abby K. Wood and Irina Dykhne, argue that news on social media should be closely monitored, and that users who share "an item that has been flagged as untrue" should be reminded that such actions could have legal consequences.

The paper focuses on several aspects regarding the regulation of "fake news" on social media, but the most disturbing are the recommendations concerning consumers:

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 final line in the paper reads: "Voting is a democratic act, and it is the government that must insure the integrity of our electoral process and work to prevent the erosion of voter competence from disinformation."

The implications of Ravel’s paper are so troubling that even George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley — not a friend to conservatives — has voiced his concern, noting that Ravel "conspicuously fails to concretely define" the term "fake news."