Klobuchar urges limits on protections for Big Tech

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Sunday that social media companies “greatly contributed” to misinformation over the coronavirus, adding that liability standards for those companies should be changed.

“I think we also should look at changing the liability standards when it comes to vaccine misinformation. Senator Warner and Hirono and I already introduced a bill that would focus on discriminatory content and the like,” Klobuchar said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Klobuchar was referring to a bill she and other senators introduced in February that would hold social media companies legally accountable for content posted on their websites that poses harm to individuals.

The bill, if passed, would reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which currently gives tech companies a liability shield for third-party content posted on their platforms. Under the bill, if users face harassment, discrimination or cyberstalking, they would be allowed to pursue legal action against those companies.

“When we have a public health crisis and people are dying every day, enough is enough. These are the richest companies in the world,” she said. “There’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be able to monitor this better and take this crap off of their platforms that are basically telling people, oh, hey, there’s problems, when we know science proves there isn’t.”

The senator’s comments follow an advisory that Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued on Thursday, calling the spread of false information over the coronavirus “a serious threat to public health.”

The advisory calls on a variety of organizations to take action, including technology companies to take more proactive measures to curb the spread of misinformation on their platforms and amplify the measures of trusted subject-matter experts. 

“In particular, make meaningful long-term investments to address misinformation, including product changes. Redesign recommendation algorithms to avoid amplifying misinformation, build in ‘frictions’ — such as suggestions and warnings — to reduce the sharing of misinformation, and make it easier for users to report misinformation,” the advisory notes.

Facebook, in particular, was called out by the White House to do more to curb the spread of false information about COVID-19.

A Facebook spokesperson pushed back against criticism, saying, “We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts.”

“The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine,” said Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever.

“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period,” Lever added.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Amy Klobuchar COVID-19 Facebook Section 230 Vivek Murthy

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