New Senate Bill Would Strip Facebook, Twitter of Immunity for Spreading Vaccine ‘Misinformation’

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) last week introduced a bill that would eliminate liability protections social media companies have under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, but critics and opponents alike say carving out exceptions is not the right solution.

A provision that protects social media platforms from being sued for content shared by its users is under attack by both the left and right — but for different reasons.

Section 230, passed as part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, gives legal immunity to internet giants such as Facebook and Twitter for content hosted on their platforms.

Democrats say Section 230 is being used to “spread anti-vaccine misinformation,” while Republicans argue the provision promotes censorship of conservative viewpoints.

Supporters of Section 230 say the law is an important tool to protect free speech.

The latest to take aim at Section 230 is Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) who last week introduced a bill intended to crack down on the spread of so-called vaccine misinformation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Klobuchar’s Health Misinformation Act of 2021 would strip social media giants “of their liability protections if their technologies spread misinformation related to public-health emergencies.”

If passed, the law would make it easier for social media giants to be sued for publishing information that causes Americans harm during events deemed public-health emergencies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Klobuchar said in a statement:

“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. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how lethal misinformation can be and it is our responsibility to take action.”

The bill would not apply to posts by individual users, but instead would be used against social media giants that deploy algorithms that spread false information.

As The Washington Post reported, Klobuchar isn’t the first lawmaker to suggest carving a certain category of content out of Section 230.

According to The Washington Post:

“In 2018, Congress passed a bill removing Section 230 protections for companies aware of sex trafficking on their sites. Free speech advocates said it was a dangerous precedent that could snowball into the law, which many see as fundamental to maintaining a free and open Internet, being deconstructed completely.

“That hasn’t happened, though there have been many attempts in the past three years by other politicians. Soon after the sex-trafficking amendment passed, there was discussion in Congress about making a similar change related to opioids and other drugs being sold on social media sites like Instagram.”

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