Press Release Tech Policy in the Pandemic

Public Knowledge Shares Misinformation Reporting Insights With Congress to Tackle Disinformation on Digital Platforms

June 24, 2020 , , , , , ,

Yesterday, Public Knowledge sent a letter to Congress providing insight into the flow of misinformation and disinformation over social media platforms to prepare for the joint hearing on “A Country in Crisis: How Disinformation Online is Dividing the Nation.” The hearing, led by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology as well as the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, will discuss the impact of disinformation on the American public.

Since March, Public Knowledge has tracked and reported on the efforts of 13 digital platforms to counter misinformation about COVID-19, assessing literally hundreds of articles, reports, and abstracts from journalists, experts, and academics to understand where, how, and by whom disinformation spreads. This uniquely positions Public Knowledge to share observations from our reporting, proven strategies to counter disinformation, examples of where we have seen disinformation hurt people the most, and details placing disinformation within the context of ongoing Section 230 conversations. We hope our reporting helps inform policy decisions on disinformation and online content moderation — both during and after the crisis.

The following can be attributed to Bertram Lee, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“Misinformation and disinformation threaten to be tremendous impediments to our democracy, our health, our right to assemble and protest, and even our peace of mind. The bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has already highlighted the litany of harms that disinformation can play, especially to Black people, the Latinx community, and most recently, Asian Americans.

“We need Congress to begin taking action here to protect these communities, and fortunately, our research shows that there are multiple paths to significantly minimize this ‘infodemic.’ In our letter and in our misinformation report, we make multiple recommendations as to how platforms can better moderate content. We have also proposed our own solution: a “superfund for the internet,” which would compel the platforms to partner with sources of authoritative information to counter misinformation while providing a new revenue source for local journalism.

“Although some have threatened to eliminate Section 230 to force platforms to act, doing so does not get rid of the disinformation that currently plagues our nation and only disempowers platforms to moderate harmful content. Rather, Congress should look to sensible narrow solutions to disincentive platforms from optimizing their algorithms for the most vitriolic or divisive content and instead promote truthful positive content that brings us together as a country.

“We commend the Energy and Commerce Committee, specifically the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology as well as the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, for their leadership on this issue. Public Knowledge looks forward to working with members of Congress towards reforms that help make the internet more accessible and safe for all Americans.”

You may view the letter as well as our misinformation tracking report, “How Are Platforms Responding to This Pandemic? What Platforms Are Doing to Tackle Rampant Misinformation During Our ‘Infodemic’,” for more information. You may also view our blog post series on Section 230.