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Sen. Klobuchar Seeks Section 230 Carveout for COVID-19 Misinformation

Sen. Amy Klobuchar official portrait
Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Under a proposed new law, if the algorithm of a Twitter or Facebook promotes vaccine misinformation and disinformation on their sites, edge providers will be considered publishers of that content, and thus liable for it.

With vaccine/COVID-19 misinformation a hot topic in D.C. and at the White House, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) has introduced a bill, the Health Misinformation Act of 2021, that would remove Section 230 civil civil liability protection for third-party content from edge providers whose algorithms promote that misinformation.

“For far too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans,” said Klobuchar in a statement. “These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation. Earlier this year, I called on Facebook and Twitter to remove accounts that are responsible for producing the majority of misinformation about the coronavirus, but we need a long term solution. This legislation will hold online platforms accountable for the spread of health-related misinformation. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how lethal misinformation can be and it is our responsibility to take action.”

What will constitute health misinformation subject to the law. The Secretary of Health & Human Services, "in consultation with the heads of other 18 relevant Federal agencies and outside experts determined 19 appropriate by the Secretary, will get to make that call.

Also Read: Facebook to D.C. on Sec. 230: Regulate Us, Please

Although he has since said he was talking about the misinformers, not the messenger, President Biden said vaccine misinformation on Facebook is killing people.

Facebook called the comments unsupported accusations that are a distraction from its effort to save lives.

The White House has been in talks with media outlets and Big Tech players over the vaccine misinformation issue as the Delta variant pushes COVID-19 infection numbers up, while vaccine rates have gone down.

John Eggerton

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 Brittanica.