We hear so much about “fake news.” It’s the latest slogan. It’s the latest fad; since fads are never too deep, a slogan certainly counts as faddy.
But what is fake news and who determines what constitutes fake news? Dealing with the concept in any real way actually reveals the many tiers to it, and these have to be considered before it can even be addressed. Since I write and investigate a lot, and I am also often disliked by some cottage industries because I reveal the narrative in many topics to be folklore, I thought I best weigh in here.
Wrong does not equal fake.
Difference of theory does not equal fake.
Hyperbole is not truly fake either.
Fake would have to mean entirely false and misleading news. Intentionality is another kink that the legal eagles would have to consider.
The bigger question is: how are they going to legally crack down on “fake news” in the USA? Actually, I think it will not be the First Amendment that stops them, whoever “them” is, but rather it will clarify for “them” how they can do it.
English and Legalese are not the same lingo. The Constitution was traditionally interpreted by the parameters of English usage, grammar, and then, lastly, by comparatives in other cases. Ultimately, logic was the criterion to govern all interpretations, for it is a legal maxim that “there can be no legal requirement to do the impossible.”
The First Amendment to the US Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
By the English language, 4 principles of expression are declared here–religion, speech, written word, and assembly and petition. That’s it.
Now, in a past, more liberal time interpretation began to accept “press” as meaning the profession today called “The Press.” The Constitution protects no profession except the ones it creates– the job of politicians.
In reality, “freedom of the press” means the written word. It comes from the printing press– “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. That little comma means everything. That little comma will hang you. The major topics are divided by semicolons. Freedom of speech and “press” are not. They are too related to be different subjects. Freedom of the spoken word and freedom of the printed word. They are divided by a comma.
Every American reading this has the right to “freedom of the press.” You have the right to print your thoughts and philosophies. No one is obligated to publish them, but you can write down ideas and circulate them yourself.
However, “freedom of the press” is not carte blanche to any profession calling itself the “news” today. It does not allow anybody to stir up what they will, create riots over false news, milk out a false angle as long as they can just to get more advertising dollars and ratings.
“Congress shall not” and Congress certainly hasn’t made a law abridging freedom of the news organizations, but Congress sure doesn’t stand in the way of the right of civil law. Which means you can go after the newspapers with your own attorney and nail them for libel. You see? Congress shall not, but Congress sure can turn a deaf ear to someone else going after the press.
It’s unlikely that fake news police, whatever that may be, will go after wealthy networks, but it is obvious that a lot of those on social networks are going to be nailed for false memes, and it would seem that some websites might be in trouble.
In the beginning perhaps some truly false and seditious fake news will be eradicated. But will it stop there? I doubt it. “Swing the pendulum too far one way and it swings back too far the other.” Most of our mommas taught us this.
I don’t know where this will end, but it will hinge on that comma. That comma does not exempt anybody from libel laws, sedition, or fraud. And if you are spinning false news to get ratings and increase ad dollars I suppose a clever district attorney can make a case for fraud. After all, when the comma comes into play, within context, all the 1st Amendment really guarantees is freedom of the printed word within the context of many other laws. It doesn’t mean you can lie, incite mayhem, and libel. I suspect somehow fraud will come into play.
Freedom of speech does not allow slander. It does not allow disturbing the peace. To enforce slander laws, it takes civil law . .. but disturbance of the peace is enforced by the law itself. This is an interesting foot in the door that can probably be used for the law to go after even big networks and nail them for false news. I suppose they’d have to make a case the false news disturbed the peace in some new interpretation.
Once again, the 1st Amendment says “Congress shall not.” It doesn’t say Congress will prevent others. I suspect Facebook will have some latitude in censoring news feeds.
Many religious organizations prevent the assembly and expressing and printing of ideas outside of their established doctrines. Congress doesn’t intervene. If it is within the Church or organization’s property, how can they? How does a social network function differently than a Church? You cause too many problems in a religion, they kick you out. Cannot a social network? “Congress shall not,” but ultimately what power does Congress have to prevent social networks from censoring you and kicking you off?
There’s a dangerous future ahead, but Facebook and the big corporations didn’t create it. Nor did government. The complete lack of personal responsibility created it. People outright used FB for a lot of preaching and lies. Message boards do it, and perhaps some websites. The pendulum went too far one way. If you cannot govern yourself, you must be governed. And now social networks and governments are trying to figure out how to govern the web because some extremists took advantage and didn’t give a damn about the truth.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.