A week after Chief Surgeon Dr. Vivek Murthy declared health misinformation an “urgent threat” to US society, Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ben Ray Luhan of New Mexico introduced a new law that would change section 230 of the Communication Decency Act 1996. years, remove the defenses from tech companies if their platforms help spread misinformation during a health crisis.
If passed, the 2021 Health Disinformation Act would create a section 230 exception that stipulates that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be “treated as publishers or disseminators of health misinformation” when their platforms algorithmically leverage misleading content about health. What falls under the definition of health misinformation is up to the Minister of Health and Human Services. The exception will only apply during a public health crisis that the HMS Secretary will have to announce in advance.
In justifying the changes to the bill, a joint report by the Center for the Fight against Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch is cited, according to which 73 percent of vaccine disinformation on Facebook may be linked to a group of 12 people known as the “disinformation dozen.” White House spokesman Jen Psaki recently referred to the same report, stating that many of these people are still active on the social network.
“For too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans. These are some of the largest and richest companies in the world, and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation, ”said Senator Klobuchar. statement. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how deadly misinformation can be, and we must take action.”
The introduction of the bill also follows a recent announcement by President Joe Biden. He said platforms like Facebook are “killing people” by doing nothing more to prevent misinformation related to vaccines and health. “We will not be distracted by allegations that are not supported by the facts,” a Facebook spokesman told Engadget after Biden made his comments. “Facts show that Facebook is helping to save lives. Dot”. The president later reiterated his statement, noting that people using the platform to spread their misinformation have done harm, but reiterated his belief that Facebook can do more to combat this.
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