Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has joined with almost two dozen other Democratic House members to urge Facebook to crack down on "dangerous misinformation," including by cracking down on misleading ads and providing ex post facto corrections for all disinformation.
The drumbeat of criticism of that social platform has been one of the loudest sounds on Capitol Hill over the past few months, exacerbated by the Capitol insurrection and the role of social media in providing a place to amplify false claims and organize resistance to legal elections.
The legislators minced no words. “We write out of a great sense of frustration because it is past time that Facebook acted decisively and definitively against dangerous disinformation," they wrote in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "From genocide, to civil war, to insurrection, we have observed the irreparable damage caused, in great part, by your platform serving as a megaphone for lies and hate.
They want Facebook to provide retroactive corrections to disinformation, demote repeat offenders and provide greater transparency on what they are doing to improve their defenses against misinformation.
Rush and his colleagues cited COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation, campaign disinformation, racist speech about police brutality and racial justice protests, the use of Facebook to organize the attack on the Capitol, and more.
Saying such disinformation was a clear and present danger to health and safety, they asked Facebook to pledge to:
1. "Instantly notify and provide corrections to every user who has been exposed to content determined by Facebook’s fact-checking partners to be false and misleading? If so, what is the expected timeline for this to take place? If not, why not?"
2. "Downgrade the reach of all content from pages and groups that repeatedly post disinformation, so that it is seen by fewer users? If so, what is the expected timeline for this to take place? If not, why not?
3. "Suspend the advertising privileges of every advertiser that has repeatedly placed ads containing false and misleading information, whether or not the ads are currently active and whether or not the claim was debunked when the ad was placed? If so, what is the expected timeline for this to take place? If not, why not?
4. "Disclose whether any of the disinformation referred to above was amplified or accelerated by your curation algorithms and, if so, how and why that happened?"
5. "Commit to transparency regarding the standards governing decisions about whether or not to downgrade the algorithmic amplification of content determined to be disinformation by your fact-checking partners, or to downgrade and demonetize groups and pages that systematically spread disinformation? If so, what is the expected timeline for this to take place? If not, why not?
6. "Publish reports detailing the actions taken pursuant to your policies on disinformation and misinformation, including the content, accounts, pages, and groups against which such actions were taken, and the criteria applied in deciding to take such actions? If so, what is the expected timeline for this to take place? If not, why not?"
The letter follows a House hearing with Zuckerberg and other Big Tech CEO's late last month at which Rush did not hide his disdain for their practices.
An obviously angry Rep. Rush said that the CEOs had put earnings before equality, and profits before people. He said their companies were profiting from hate and racism. "There is only one comparison that remotely approaches the avarice and moral discrepancy of your companies, and that is the slave-tocracy burden of our nation’s shameful and inhumane and most difficult, dark days in the past," Rush said.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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