H.R.6393, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, passed in the House of Representatives on November 30.
Section 501 calls for the government to counter “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.”
Definitions include media manipulation, covert broadcasting, disinformation and forgeries, and “funding agents of influence.”
It’s easy to see how this law, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, could be used against “fake news” websites.
On November 24, The Washington Post published an article citing “experts” who claim Russian propaganda helped Donald Trump get elected.
“Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem,” the Post reported.
The newspaper cited PropOrNot, an anonymous website that posted a hit list of alternative media websites, including Drudge Report, Zero Hedge, Activist Post, Blacklisted News, and many others.
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PropOrNot attempts to make the case the websites are either used directly or covertly by the Russians to spread propaganda.
At this point it is unknown if the bill will work its way through the Senate and become law and if it will be used to shut down or curtail websites anonymously characterized as useful idiots or willing participants in disseminating supposed Russian propaganda.