We can set the  standard for addressing the public for a public purpose without violating freedom of
speech.


But we can only do it in the Constitution.


 Return to the Public Debate

 







Amendment XXVIII, proposed, Section 5:

"Titles and descriptions of Acts 
 of the United States and of States 
 will be true and accurate." 


Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Assessing the Truth and Accuracy clause in the public debate. 













Amendment I: ​

"Congress shall make no law […]

abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;”



To require politicians to be truthful and accurate when publicly providing self-governance information regarding Acts means that the public will also have to be truthful and accurate when publicly providing self-governance information regarding Acts. 

Any restriction of speech in a free nation must be seriously considered.

It may not abridge our rights. Democracy is impossible without free public debate.



There is a vital public interest. 

​In a democracy, addressing the public for a governance purpose isn’t just speech 

but also the public conduct of ordaining and establishing government. 

To knowingly provide false or misleading information to the public obstructs self-governance.

And if it directly impacts public money (and not much the government does is free) it can defraud us. 

While the false, misleading or misleadingly incomplete can still have expressive value, 

to the extent that it can affect public money it's political fraud. 

The public debate regarding Acts must be true and accurate, 
whether provided by a public or private source. 


  • Will it work?


See The Truth and Accuracy Clause and Penalizing Political Fraud for information on its effects.

  • Does it consist with our inalienable rights, and with related clauses? 


Two rights are involved in political speech: 

the individual's right to express it and the public's right to receive it. 
Article I, Sections 5 and 9 assert the public's right to self-governance information. 
Self-governance information can be presented by government officers 

but it can also be presented by anyone with information useful to self-governance 

(see Internal Government Speech, and The Public Debate is Self-Governance section).

The courts will weigh the two rights by case, giving neither preference. 


The Electoral clause allows Congress and the states to limit political speech by time, place or manner (see Protecting Freedom of Speech and the following pages. Applied Speech Doctrine lists important political speech cases).

  • ​​Have statutes been tried? Can the public's need be met without amendment? 


Statutes requiring truth and accuracy in political speech have been tried at the state level and failed in the courts. This is partly because the Preamble, which establishes the people's inalienable right to ordain and establish government, was stripped of legal force in 1905 (see The Most Important Clause in American Law and its section), leaving the public without a Constitutional right we can assert regarding the need for accurate political information. This amendment restores and safeguards the Preamble. But even restoring it won't provide a specific clause.


Various proposed statutes are before Congress but no statute would be enforceable without an amendment (see Statute vs Constitutional Amendment). We've done all that can be done short of it. There are accordingly other amendments on this subject before Congress, but only this amendment meets all of the necessary criteria (see Knowing What to Ask About Reforms). 


  • How does it compare to other Constitutionally-allowed (or Constitutionally-required) boundaries on speech? 


All forms of speech are checked by the Constitution's protections of the public, 

such as not shouting fire in a crowded theater. The FCC protects the public from false advertising. And other inalienable rights can check speech rights. Our vital public interest in being able to conduct self-governance with accurate information can check speech if the other criteria are met. 


The Truth and Accuracy clause consists perfectly with related clauses: various sections of this proposal address the political clauses in detail. Please read the proposal for more information on the Ordain and Establish and Justice clauses in the Preamble, the Electoral clause, the Guarantee clause, and several others. It also consists with this amendment’s other sections, including Section 1’s requirement that campaigning be publicly funded in times and places relevant to immediately-pending votes (see Why Pay for Campaigns?).

  • Is this clause clearly drafted, with defined limits holding it to this specific public interest?

"Titles and descriptions of Acts 
 of the United States and of States 
 will be true and accurate." 

It's clear, specific and limited. The language is taken from previous measures that failed but not because of their wording, which was found to be suitable. Clear regulations with appropriate parameters and a legitimate public purpose don't abridge speech. 


  • Is it sufficiently checked and balanced? Does it give enough guidance to the courts to prevent suppression of speech by the government or others? Would any political views be lost altogether? (This would be a deal-breaker in itself). 


The Truth and Accuracy clause is strictly checked and balanced.

It follows the Constitution’s expressed priority in Article I, Sections 5 and 9 to require truth and accuracy when self-governance information is provided to the public regarding or directly bearing on Acts (see The Constitution and Politics). It details those clauses, making them more effective and enforceable.

  • Of course, a candidate's or officer's position on an issue covered is part of a full description of an Act.
  • The clause doesn't affect any other content about people, even candidates, or anything that doesn’t bear directly on an Act or Acts. Some proposed measures have tried to go too far. Defamation is a separate matter in the law, already addressed by statutes, and there's no reason for political defamation to be any different. 
  • Opinion that can be distinguished from a factual claim is never affected. No view can be lost because the clause doesn't cover opinion, only factual content and the implication of facts.
  • Publicly presented political views won't be able to disregard facts. This is a restriction of speech, but misleading people with self-governance at stake is wrong. Before the Internet, a requirement to check facts before publicly providing your message might have been a problem, but research is easier today.
  • Challenging the truth of available information isn't lying.
  • What about honest mistakes? The courts will follow existing related topics in law, which cover this. 
  • What about private speech? Constitutional text has strict topics and can't be used beyond them. The rest of the section, and the entirety of the amendment, provide context defining every clause in it as topics in political process. This excludes private speech (see the Protecting Freedom of Speech section for more on this).
  • The press of course remains free to publish self-governance information as always, using

        employment and protection of market share to guard against false statements. The courts are                       sometimes involved today. This will increase the public's ability to require truth and accuracy but those         are requirements the press already freely accepts. 

With the checks this amendment sets,

truth and accuracy can be mandatory without substantially burdening speech

or exceeding the Constitution's allowed regulation of self-governance speech.



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