2 Democrat Senators want to make Big Tech companies liable when their algorithms promote health misinformation

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2 Democrat Senators want to make Big Tech companies liable when their algorithms promote health misinformation
Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Samuel Corum/Pool/AFP
  • Two Democratic senators introduced a bill called The Health Misinformation Act on Thursday.
  • It would make social-media firms liable when algorithms promote misinformation during health emergencies.
  • The Biden administration has argued with Facebook over its role in vaccine hesitancy.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Ben Ray Luján introduced a bill on Thursday that, if passed into law, would make social media companies like Facebook and Twitter liable for any misinformation on their platforms if it is promoted by their algorithms during a health emergency.

The Health Misinformation Act calls for companies to be treated as publishers during public-health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill wouldn't penalise companies for simply allowing misinformation to appear on a user's feed - it excludes misinformation promoted "through a neutral mechanism, such as through the use of chronological functionality."

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The bill would amend Section 230, a part of US law that protects social media companies from legal liability for user-posted content. Section 230 also enshrines their right to moderate their platforms as they see fit.

Read more: These 7 powerful people are behind Biden's bid to break up Big Tech

Klobuchar and Luján's bill comes after the Biden administration clashed with Facebook over whether it was responsible for vaccine hesitancy in the US.

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President Joe Biden said on June 16 that social media companies were "killing people" by allowing anti-vaccine misinformation to circulate. Biden rowed back on Monday, saying the spreaders of misinformation on social media, not the platforms, were killing people.

Facebook said the Biden administration was looking for a scapegoat to blame for its missed target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by July 4. At time of writing, 56% of adults in America have received at least one vaccine dose.

2 Democrat Senators want to make Big Tech companies liable when their algorithms promote health misinformation
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Nick Wass/Associated Press

Facebook VP of public policy Kevin Martin said in a statement to Insider: "We believe clarification on the difficult and urgent questions about health related misinformation would be helpful and look forward to working with Congress and the industry as we consider options for reform."

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He added Facebook has "long supported" reform to Section 230.

Twitter declined to comment when contacted by Insider.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a Senate hearing in October 2020 that while he supported updates to Section 230, stripping back the protections it gives to social media companies would hurt freedom of speech.

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