White House Exploring Legal Liability for Social Media Companies That Permit Misinformation To Spread

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, CNBC Television

The White House is exploring whether or not social media companies are legally liable for misinformation being spread on their platforms.

On Tuesday, White House communication director Kate Bedingfield said the administration is reviewing how misinformation fits into the protections granted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from being responsible for what third parties post. 

“We’re reviewing that, and certainly they should be held accountable,” Bedingfield said during an interview on MSNBC. “I think you’ve heard the president speak very aggressively about this. He understands this is an important piece of the ecosystem.” 

Tuesday’s comments are the latest in a tiff between the White House and Facebook Inc (Nasdaq:  FB) over whether or not social media companies are harming users by showing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. 

In recent months, the White House has grown increasingly frustrated over the social media giant’s handling of misinformation and how that could complicate efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Last week, President Joe Biden said platforms like Facebook were “killing people” by enabling false information regarding vaccines to propagate.  

The president walked back his remarks Monday, saying it was not Facebook that was killing people, but rather the users who were posting falsehoods. He also said he hoped the social media giant would do more to fight “the outrageous misinformation” being spread on its platform.

In response to Biden’s recent comments, Facebook said the administration “has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies” for low vaccination rates and rising COVID-19 case numbers. 

Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of integrity, wrote in a post on the company's website on Saturday, “As a company, we have devoted unprecedented resources to the fight against the pandemic, pointing people to reliable information and helping them find and schedule vaccinations. And we will continue to do so.”

"President Biden's goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed," Rosen wrote.

The company also said more than 2 billion people “have viewed authoritative information” about COVID-19 and vaccines on its platforms — more than any other place on the internet — and more than 3.3 million Americans used its vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get the shot. 

“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.” the company said.

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