Washington Examiner: Maryland lawmakers voted to criminalize online speech in the name of security (In the News)

Washington Examiner: Maryland lawmakers voted to criminalize online speech in the name of security

By Eric Wang

More than a thousand students gathered at the Maryland state capitol in March as part of the national “March for Our Lives” demonstrations against school shootings. Presumably, these students used the Internet, social media, or mobile device apps to organize their rally.

In so doing, they may have committed a crime under an obscure Maryland law.

Instead of fixing this flawed speech law, the Maryland General Assembly recently passed a bill to reenact and expand it. The legislation purports to counter foreign online political propaganda. But in reality, the new burden it would place on Marylanders’ Internet speech threatens our First Amendment rights. Gov. Larry Hogan, R, should veto the bill.

At issue is HB 981, the so-called “Online Electioneering Transparency and Accountability Act.” If signed into law, the bill would reenact the state’s existing regulation of “campaign material.” The term includes any “material transmitted by or appearing on the Internet or other electronic medium” that “relates to” a candidate, prospective candidate, ballot measure, or prospective ballot measure. If you think about it, that includes just about anything…

It is bad enough that HB 981 would reenact Maryland’s unconstitutional speech law. But the bill would make matters even worse by imposing a whole host of additional reporting and record-keeping requirements. 

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.