US Lawmakers Move to Criminalize ‘Fake News, Propaganda’ on the Web

The witch hunt for “fake news” and “Russian propaganda” has been kicked up a notch, after the House passed a bill quietly tucked inside the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, designed to crack down on free speech and independent media.

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Under “Title V—Matters relating to foreign countries,” the bill seeks to “counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence … carried out in coordination with, or at the behest of, political leaders or the security services of the Russian Federation and the role of the Russian Federation has been hidden or not acknowledged publicly.”

It lists media manipulation as:

  • Establishment or funding of a front group.
  • Covert broadcasting.
  • Media manipulation.
  • Disinformation and forgeries.
  • Funding agents of influence.
  • Incitement and offensive counterintelligence.
  • Assassinations.
  • Terrorist acts.

“It is easy to see how this law, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, could be used to target, threaten, or eliminate so-called ‘fake news’ websites, a list which has been used to arbitrarily define any website, or blog, that does not share the mainstream media’s proclivity to serve as the Public Relations arm of a given administration,” Global Research reported.

The frightening attack on speech and independent media was opposed by only 30 members of the House, including Tulsi Gabbard, Thomas Massie, and Justin Amash — who stated that he fought against it.

“As long as the government engages in intelligence activities that violate our rights secured by our Constitution, any Intel Authorization bill should be opposed,” Justin Amash told Sputnik News.

The bill must now pass through Senate, though a senior Rand Paul aide has told Sputnik News that the Senator is currently holding the intelligence bill for several reasons — and that they are looking at this specific issue very closely.

“Curiously, the bill which was passed on November 30, was introduced on November 22, two days before the Washington Post published its Nov. 24 article citing ‘experts’ who claim Russian propaganda helped Donald Trump get elected,” Zero Hedge noted.

The ‘experts’ the newspaper cited was a group called “PropOrNot,” although it have refused to name the experts behind the operation. The organization has promoted a Ukrainian hacker group on their Twitter feed.

PropOrNot also listed over 200 websites that they accuse of peddling Russian propaganda, including extremely popular news websites on all sides of the political spectrum, including The Drudge Report, Zero Hedge, TruthOut, Sputnik News, and even WikiLeaks.

Former presidential candidate Ron Paul’s website is also mentioned in many of the articles on so-called fake news, an issue that should be concerning to those who believe in free speech, including his son, Senator Rand Paul. The elder Paul has long been a vocal supporter of freedom of speech, as it is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, and he and his supporters have repeatedly been the target of finger pointing and demonization.

In 2012, a risk-assessment report from a Missouri-based fusion center stated that support for Ron Paul’s presidential bid was a sign of membership in a “domestic terrorist group.”

“For purposes of this definition it does not matter whether the sites listed here are being knowingly directed and paid by Russian intelligence officers, or whether they even knew they were echoing Russian propaganda at any particular point: If they meet these criteria, they are at the very least acting as bona-fide ‘useful idiots’ of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny,” the so-called experts cited by PropOrNot state.

Many of those listed on censorship hit lists are speaking out against the attempt to stop independent media.

“Information is dangerous and with this new reactionary shift of people making ban lists of so called ‘fake news,’ it shows us how afraid they are of knowledge and differences of opinion that spur people to have an open mind,” Luke Rudkowski, the owner of We Are Change, one of the sites on the blacklist, previously told Sputnik News. “Information is very dangerous for the establishment status quo that tried to keep things the way they are.”

The bill, Zero Hedge notes, will soon proclaim much of the internet to be “criminal Russian propaganda if it is allowed to pass.

I originally published this piece on Sputnik News

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Cassandra Fairbanks is a DC-based writer and political commentator who has been published in a range of outlets including Sputnik News, Teen Vogue, TeleSUR, and Bipartisan Report.

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