As coronavirus cases rise in unvaccinated populations, Democratic senators are introducing a new bill Thursday that would strip away Facebook and other social media platforms’ Section 230 liability shield if they amplify harmful public health misinformation.
The Health Misinformation Act, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) Thursday, would create a carveout in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act opening social media platforms like Facebook up to lawsuits for hosting some dangerous health misinformation. The bill directs the Health and Human Services secretary to issue guidelines on what should be classified as “health misinformation.”
The carveout would only apply in situations where online misinformation is related to an existing public health emergency like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as declared by the HHS secretary. It would only open a platform up to liability if the content is being algorithmically amplified, not through “a neutral mechanism, such as through the use of chronological functionality.”
“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 in a statement Thursday. “The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how lethal misinformation can be and it is our responsibility to take action.”