I have previously noted how state efforts to police "false news" dates to at least colonial times. See California Considers Following New England Colonists In Outlawing Fake News. Continuing this trend, Governor Brown last week signed legislation, AB 3075, establishing an Office of Elections Cybersecurity within the California Secretary of State's office.
The OEC will have two primary missions. The first, which should not be too surprising given the name of the office, is to "coordinate efforts between the Secretary of State and local elections officials to reduce the likelihood and severity of cyber incidents that could interfere with the security or integrity of elections in the state". The second mission was added to the bill late in the legislative session and is less expected:
"To monitor and counteract false or misleading information regarding the electoral process that is published online or on other platforms and that may suppress voter participation or cause confusion and disruption of the orderly and secure administration of elections."
While I understand that there can be legitimate concerns about false statement suppressing voter participation or causing confusion. The right of free speech and the vagueness of the bill are cause for concern. How broadly will this new office define information "regarding the electoral process"? What does it mean to "counteract" false or misleading information? Does the mission of counteracting false or misleading information mean that the OEC will become a ministry of propaganda? Will this bill convert the Secretary of State's office from a neutral administrator and vote counter into an active participant in elections? We only have to wait and see.