Obama signed a law allowing media to lie to American people

Brad Sylvester

An image shared on Facebook claims former President Barack Obama signed a law in 2012 that made it “perfectly legal for the media to purposely lie to the American people.”

Verdict: False

The referenced law, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, mentions nothing about making it legal for private media organizations to lie to the American people.

Fact Check:

The claim that Obama signed a law making it “perfectly legal for the media to purposely lie to the American people” has circulated since at least 2019 and recently resurfaced on social media.

“Thanks to Obama, it is perfectly legal for the media to purposely lie to the American people,” reads the text inside the image. “He quietly signed into law HR 4310 in 2012, allowing propaganda to be used on the citizens of the USA by its own government, essentially repealing the Smith-Mundt act of 1948, banning the use of domestic propaganda.”

H.R. 4310 refers to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, a bill that outlined the budget and expenditures for the Department of Defense for that fiscal year. Obama signed it into law in January 2013, according to a White House press release. A search of the law’s text turned up no clause about what traditional, private news organizations can or cannot publish.

The post is likely referencing a change the legislation made to the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, a law, also known as the Smith-Mundt Act, that authorized and set rules around the dissemination of information from U.S. government-funded media outlets like Voice of America, according to the U.S. Agency for Global Media. The U.S. Agency for Global Media “broadcasts news and information about the United States and the world to audiences abroad,” per USA.gov.

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, contained within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, eased some restrictions so that media produced by the U.S. Agency for Global Media and intended for foreign audiences could be distributed domestically upon request, according to its text. Prior to its passage, the content was banned from being disseminated in America.

The act did not make it legal for the independent, privately-owned media organizations, where most Americans get their news, to “purposely lie,” as the post inaccurately suggests.

Many have criticized the U.S. Agency for Global Media and its content. The agency has denied its work is “propaganda,” saying in a statement on its website, “Our journalists must abide by legally mandated broadcasting standards and principles to present accurate and objective news and information.”

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