Senators Take Aim at Section 230 Over COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’

July 22nd, 2021 6:54 PM

Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Thursday that would make Facebook liable for “misinformation” about the global pandemic.

The Health Misinformation Act, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), would use the Department of Health and Human Services to open social media platforms like Facebook up to liability for misinformation about COVID-19 and the COVID vaccine.  

Section 230 currently protects social media platforms from liability for illegal content posted by third-party users. 

The bill would enable the secretary of Health and Human Services to issue “guidelines” on what content would be classified as “health misinformation.” 

“For far too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans. These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation,” Klobuchar said of the bill. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how lethal misinformation can be and it is our responsibility to take action.”

The bill comes after President Biden said misleading posts on Facebook were “killing people.”

“They’re killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people,” he said.

Facebook took issue with the president’s comments, arguing that his characterization of Facebook’s involvement in spreading misinformation online was unfair.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” the tech giant said. “The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet.”

“More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”

Experts are concerned about the power the bill would give the Department of Health and Human Services.

“What could go wrong?” Jeff Kosseff, an Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity Law at the U.S. Naval Academy, tweeted.

“What happens when there is an HHS secretary who has very different views about what is “health misinformation?” And the First Amendment…” he continued.

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