Two Democratic senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would remove the liability shield that social media platforms hold dear when these companies are found to have spurred anti-vaccine conspiracies and other types of health misinformation .
The Health Disinformation Act, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), would create a new exception in section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to keep platforms responsible for health disinformation promoted by an algorithm. and conspiracies. The platforms rely on Section 230 to protect them from legal liability for the large amount of user-created content they host.
“For too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans,” Klobuchar said. “These are some of the biggest and wealthiest companies in the world and they need to do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation.”
The bill would specifically change the wording of section 230 to revoke liability protections in the case of “health disinformation that is created or developed through the interactive IT service” if that disinformation is amplified by an algorithm. The proposed exception would only be triggered during a declared national public health crisis, such as the advent of Covid-19, and would not apply under normal circumstances.
“The features built into the technology platforms have helped the spread of misinformation and disinformation, with social media platforms tricking individuals into sharing content to gain likes, comments and other positive signals. ‘commitment, which rewards commitment rather than precision,’ Bill reads.
The bill also mentions the “dozen of disinformation” – just twelve people, including anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and a bag of other conspiracy theorists, who make up a massive part of the ecosystem. anti-vax disinformation. Many of the people on the list still openly disseminate their posts through social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.
Advocates of section 230 generally regard the idea of new exceptions to the law as dangerous. Because Section 230 is a fundamental building block of the modern internet, allowing everything from Yelp and Reddit to the comments section below that article, they argue that the potential for unintended second-order effects means the law must be left intact.
But some members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – see Section 230 as valuable leverage in their quest to regulate large social media companies. As the White House pursues its own path to create consequences for tech companies overrun by the Justice Department and the FTC, Biden’s office said earlier this week that the president is also “reviewing” Section 230. But as Trump also discovered, weakening Section 230 is a task only Congress can do – and even that is still a long way.
While the new Democratic bill is narrowly focused when it comes to proposed section 230 changes, it is also unlikely to attract bipartisan support.
Republicans are also keen to remove some of Big Tech’s liability protections, but are generally of the view that platforms remove too much content rather than too little. Republicans are also more likely to spread misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines themselves, calling vaccination a partisan issue. Whether the bill goes somewhere or not, it is clear that an alarming portion of Americans have no intention of getting the vaccine – even with a much more contagious variant on the rise and colder months to come. the horizon.
“As cases of COVID-19 increase among the unvaccinated, so does the amount of misinformation surrounding vaccines on social media,” Luján said of the proposed section 230 changes. lives are at stake. ”