DeGette demands answers on tech companies’ efforts to prevent vaccine misinformation online

Feb 2, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent letters today to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google demanding to know what the companies are doing to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

The letters come as the House Energy and Commerce Committee – which has jurisdiction to regulate the nation’s internet companies – continues to investigate the tech companies’ handling of misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps each company is taking to prevent it from escalating on their platforms.

“These COVID-19 vaccines and others in development present hope in turning the deadly tide of the last year and can be a powerful tool in our efforts to contain the pandemic – but only if the public has confidence in them,” the lawmakers wrote. “Thus, it is imperative that [Facebook, Twitter, and Google] stop the spread of false or misleading information about coronavirus vaccines on its platform.”

The lawmakers – all of whom serve as senior members of the committee – sent similar letters to the three companies back in July expressing deep concern over a rampant rise of disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic on their platforms.

“As the country enters this next phase in its fight against the virus – the success of which is dependent on hundreds of millions of Americans trusting the science behind these vaccines,” the lawmakers wrote to the three tech CEOs today. “False and misleading information is dangerous, and if relied on by the public to make critical health choices, it could result in the loss of human life."

Specifically, the lawmakers demanded that each company provide the committee:

  • Details of all actions the companies have taken to limit false or misleading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation on their platforms;
  • Descriptions of all policy changes the companies have implemented to stop the spread of false or misleading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, and how the companies are measuring the effectiveness of each such policy change;
  • Whether the companies have used information labels or other types of notifications to alert users about COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation, and if so, the date(s) it first began implanting labels or notifications and how the companies are measuring its effectiveness;
  • Details about the five common targeted advertisements that appear alongside COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation on the platforms;
  • Details on the companies’ COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation enforcement efforts; and
  • Whether the companies have coordinated any actions or activities with other online platforms related to COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation.

Copies of the letters sent to each company are available here:

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