Section 230 is under attack again, this time by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) who introduced a bill that would make online platforms liable for the health “misinformation” posted by users to encourage mass censorship on the platform. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects online platforms from being sued over content posted by users.
The bill, called the Health Misinformation Act, would require online platforms to remove health misinformation, particularly vaccine skepticism during public health crises. Failure to remove such content would make a platform legally liable.
We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.
The liability, however, would be adjudicated by a court. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services of the current administration to determine what qualifies a health misinformation.
“These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation,” said Klobuchar.
“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 introduction of the bill came a few days after President Joe Biden accused social media companies, specifically Facebook, of “killing people” by allowing the spread of vaccine misinformation.
Earlier this week, On Tuesday, the White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said the administration was exploring ways to hold social media companies accountable for publishing vaccine misinformation.
“Social media companies have a responsibility,” Bedingfield said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. “We're reviewing that and certainly they should be held accountable. I think you heard the president speak aggressively about this.”
She also said social media companies are not the only ones at fault.
“It is also the responsibility of the people creating the content. Again I go back to there are conservative news outlets creating irresponsible content sharing misinformation about the virus that's getting shared on these platforms. So it is a big and complicated ecosystem and everybody bears responsibility.”
The Health Misinformation Act does not have the support of a single Republican, and that's not likely to change.
The bill also hasn't considered the First Amendment and all of the problems that come with having the government decide what is and isn't health “misinformation.” It would likely turn into a political weapon to censor critics of those who are currently in power, just like it has in other countries where similar laws have been created.
While a review of Section 230 is a bipartisan issue, Republicans and Democrats want it changed for different reasons. The left wants it changed so that tech companies can be held responsible for misinformation and harmful content, while the right wants it changed so that they can sue tech companies for disproportionately censoring their content.
According to the Chamber of Progress, a center-left tech policy activism group, Klobuchar's bill is a mistake.
“We all want less misinformation online, but this approach would turn future Republican presidents into the speech police,” Chamber of Progress' chief executive Adam Kovacevich said. “Democrats would regret this.”