In Which Reality Is Exactly As Strange As Fiction

In today’s news, it turns out MSNBC’s legal correspondent, Ari Melber, has proposed treating “fake news”, or more technically “disprovable media claims” as a species of fraud along the same lines as fraudulent advertising – and therefore something the FTC can protect the public from.

Long-time readers may notice a certain similarity to the Empire’s  long-standing principle that “the freedom of speech is not the freedom to deceive” that establishes lies on matters of fact as criminal fraud, only aggravated by the number of people you’re lying to.

It’s just a more limited (concentrating only on “deceptive businesses” and keeping the government away from “actual journalists” and “citizens exercising their right to lie” – O tempora! O mores!) and government-centered (rather than creating a cause of action for anyone lied to) version of it. Which differences probably make it worthless anyway, but just in case anyone’s getting ideas from my fictional politics…

…it works there because of a millennia-old tradition of intellectual integrity (“right to lie, indeed!”) and of principled valxíjir and of not being a bunch of malevolent means-justifying sons-of-bitches. Both I and my fourth-wall-breaking characters strongly anti-endorse the notion for use here, where approximately none of those conditions hold true.

 

Grand Theft Identity

Vinwi Cyberdemocracy: Does not exist.

(The year 6829 marked the collapse of the Shrouded Suns Selfdom’s most successful identity fraud operation, in which they used an automated botnet of false identities, reputation bots, and infojacked social networks to produce and cross-verify almost one million false identities purportedly originating in the Vinwi Cyberdemocracy, stated to be a single-system polity located in the fringes of the rimward Expansion Regions – and inserted as such by a considerable feat of system-cracking in several galactic volumetric registries.

The Worlds’ authentification systems being more attuned to conventional fraud, misappropriation, and database manipulation than to non-existent polities, these identities operated successfully for nearly a decade before being invalidated.

Occasional identity-claims purporting to originate in the Vinwi Cyberdemocracy still surface from time to time across the extranet. If you should encounter such a claim, please report it forthwith to your local information security center or to Conclave Security, Network Operations Division, as appropriate.)

– Polities of the Associated Worlds, 882nd printing

A Quick Note: Freedom of Speech

And just one more thing…

Actually, it occurs to me that there’s one other quirk worth mentioning.

Their version of freedom of speech doesn’t cover fraud.

Now, ours doesn’t either, to an extent – at least when it’s monetary fraud, and when it’s addressed to some distinct identifiable subset of individuals. But if you’re deceiving everyone, or doing so in a blatantly non-commercial manner, it’s pretty much fair game.

The Empire’s version, on the other hand, while wide-ranging in many ways, maintains as a fundamental legal principle that the freedom to speak is not the freedom to deceive. So you can talk as much as you want about what you believe, as a matter of faith; you can have whatever opinions you like, no matter how bizarre, unpopular, repulsive, hateful, or vile, and publish them to your heart’s content; you can take provisional positions on the unknown; and you can be mistaken, provided that you’re willing to accept and acknowledge correction.

But the moment you appear to be deliberately lying about, misrepresenting, or otherwise playing silly buggers with a matter of fact, the Curial courts will nail your ass to the wall on criminal “Intentionally Wrong Calculation/Falsification of Information” charges, and those charges will stick. That you’re defrauding millions of people instead of thousands isn’t an ameliorating factor, it’s an aggravating one.

(That strict application of this would result in maybe 99% of most polities’ political, lobbying, and activist establishments and maybe two-thirds of their journalists being immediately condemned to vigorous and stringent meme rehab and recon is something the average Imperial finds funny as hell. And kind of depressing, but mostly funny.)