Proposed Bill Takes Aim at Misinformation on Social Media Platforms

Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill Thursday to remove Section 230 protections for vaccine misinformation.

Proposed Bill Takes Aim at Misinformation on Social Media Platforms
Photo of Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2019, used with permission.

July 22, 2021—Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, introduced a bill Thursday that would remove online platforms’ Section 230 liability protections when the platforms are used to spread misinformation about coronavirus vaccines or other public-health emergencies.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects online platforms like Facebook and Twitter from civil liability for third-party content posted on their platforms. The measure has come under intense scrutiny over the past year, with prominent figures from both major political parties calling for reform.

Klobuchar said she decided to pursue new legislation because previous attempts to persuade Facebook to regulate the content have not been successful, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Earlier this year, I called on Facebook and Twitter to remove accounts that are responsible for producing the majority of misinformation about the coronavirus, but we need a long-term solution,” Klobuchar says. “This legislation will hold online platforms accountable for the spread of health-related misinformation.”

The coronavirus has been labeled a public-health emergency since January 2020, and Klobuchar’s bill would apply only to events formally declared a public-health emergency by the government. It would also only apply when platforms spread misinformation through the use of their algorithms.

The bill’s introduction cites a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which says that only 12 social media pages are responsible for a significant amount of false information being circulated about vaccines.

Last week, President Joe Biden said that Facebook was “killing people” by spreading misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. Biden later clarified his statement, saying that he wasn’t accusing the company of murder, but wanted them to “do something about the misinformation.”

The following day, Facebook rejected Biden’s criticism in a blog post, saying that 85 percent of its U.S. users either want to be or already have been vaccinated, citing this as evidence that Facebook was not the reason Biden’s goal of a 70 percent vaccination goal by July was not Facebook’s fault. Facebook said it was helping efforts to vaccinate the country by operating vaccine clinics in low-income communities in several states.

Klobuchar had, earlier this year, already introduced legislation called the Safe Tech Act that would amend Section 230 to maintain company liability protections except for content that that the platforms get paid for.

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