Saturday, June 2, 2012

Truth in Political Advertising

Here it is, plain and simple.  We are fed up with politicians, political organizations, and news media lying, distorting facts, and misleading the public.  Think about recent claims of communists in Congress, abortion statistics about Planned Parenthood, or clearly disproven claims about government growth.  The list goes on and on.  And the truth is that such statements are not protected by the 1st Amendment.  The Federal Trade Commission requires truth in consumer advertising, including clear disclaimers to distinguish facts from opinions when discussing medical issues or making claims about legal or financial outcomes.  The same standard must be held to people using the print, airwaves or internet media to educate or influence you, the public.

We propose the following Truth in Political Statements federal law.
Politicians (including their employees and representatives), political organizations (as defined by the FEC and/or IRS) and media outlets (whether for- or not-for-profit) that provide content intended to educate, inform or influence the public, must provide proof of and links to credible and verifiable sources for all claims and statements that are not clearly and explicitly stated to be the opinion of the speaker or organization. Failure to provide such factual bases and support shall result in a public retraction and/or admonition of use of unsubstantiated statements or opinion presented as fact. Claims or statements made as fact that are shown to be false will be publicly retracted and corrected. All such corrections, retractions, clarifications and admonitions will be made by the speaker or organization who made them, at their exclusive expense, and in all media outlets, forms and markets in which those statements were made.  
Imagine if, during the black and white images and ominous music of super-pac smear advertisements, there were a clear message at the bottom of the screen that says "This is the opinion of Citizens United" or gave a URL to the viewer so you could see their facts.  Imagine if a candidate trying to score cheap points by smearing their opponent knew that they would have to pay double to correct every false statement they made.  Certainly, some groups would try to find sneaky ways to work around the system, but it sure would go a long way to cleaning up the (mis)information flying around and bring genuine accountability to the very people who should be most accountable.  Put another way, it worked for Pinocchio...
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