Is The California Secretary of State Monitoring What You Publish Online?

Allen Matkins

Allen Matkins

In 2018, the California legislature established a "ministry of truth" within the California Secretary of State's office - the Office of Elections Cybersecurity.  By statute, the OEC has a duty “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.” Cal. Elec. Code § 10.5(b)(2).  The OEC has stated that, to fulfill its mission, it prioritizes “working closely with social media companies to be proactive so when there’s a source of misinformation, we can contain it.”

In O'Handley v. Weber, 2023 WL 2443073, the plaintiff alleged: 

Twitter Inc. and California's Secretary of State, Shirley Weber, violated his constitutional rights by acting in concert to censor his speech on Twitter's platform. He alleges that the Secretary of State's office entered into a collaborative relationship with Twitter in which state officials regularly flagged tweets with false or misleading information for Twitter's review and that Twitter responded by almost invariably removing the posts in question. O'Handley further alleges that, after a state official flagged one of his tweets as false or misleading, Twitter limited other users' ability to access his tweets and then suspended his account, ostensibly for violating the company's content-moderation policy.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the the dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims against the Secretary of State's office because the office did not violate federal law when it notified Twitter of tweets containing false or misleading information that potentially violated the company's content-moderation policy.  The Court of Appeal also dismissed the plaintiff's federal claims against Twitter, as each of those claims requires proof either that Twitter was a state actor or that it conspired with state actors to deprive the plaintiff of his constitutional rights.

Does anyone find it creepy that the Secretary of State is charged with monitoring and counteracting information that you may publish online?  

The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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