Amending Section 230 to Hold Online Platforms Accountable for Health Misinformation Is Detrimental to Users, Says ITIF

July 22, 2021

WASHINGTON—Following Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)’s introduction of the Health Misinformation Act of 2021, which would hold online platforms liable for health misinformation posted by users during public health emergencies, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy, issued the following statement from Ashley Johnson, ITIF policy analyst:

Health misinformation can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, especially during a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemicbut amending Section 230 is the wrong way to fix this issue. 

Holding online platforms liable when users post this content would only introduce more problems and would fail to stem the flow of misinformation that has spread just as easily on cable news networks and on the House and Senate floor.

Klobuchar’s proposal would make consumers worse off. The legislation would incentivize platforms to disable their algorithms and discourage the practice of ranking content that ensures users receive the most accurate and up-to-date health information. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that, during an ongoing public health crisis, distinguishing between fact and fiction isn’t easy. For instance, during COVID’s early months, U.S. officials only recommended masks to healthcare workers; as new evidence about the spread of the disease emerged, they encouraged everyone to wear masks. Klobuchar’s introduced legislation would force platforms to aggressively censor users in complex and uncertain situations, chilling online free speech.

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Amending Section 230 to Hold Online Platforms Accountable for Health Misinformation Is Detrimental to Users, Says ITIF